|Scientific name:||Carduelis spinus|
Resident. Additional birds arrive from Continent in winter. One of Ireland's Top 20 most widespread garden birds.
A small finch, with a fine, pointed bill and deeply forked tail, which is easily visible in flight. Male is mostly bright yellow (especially around the head and breast) with a whitish belly and yellow-green back. The female is a more muted version of the male and is more streaked. Male also shows a black crown and tiny bib. Both sexes have black and yellow markings on the wings and tail and a yellow rump. Mostly found in coniferous woods and in winter frequents alder woods. Readily comes to garden feeders in mid-winter.
Song a rapid series of quiet twitters, with some nasal notes. Call "tew", often given in flight.
Mostly pine cone seeds and alder cone seeds. Also uses peanut feeders.
Breeds throughout Ireland. Mostly in coniferous woodland. Nests quite high in fork in conifer.
Widespread, especially in gardens.
Garden Bird Survey.
Regionally common breeding in forests of spruce, fir and pine.
Common and widespread throughout Ireland in winter.
Blog posts about this bird
Irish Garden Birds get a spring in their step in February!
Goldfinch were only seen in around a third of Irish gardens 20 years ago, but their numbers have continued to increase since that time and now they're regularly seen in 80% of gardens each winter. They're seen in most gardens right throughout the Irish Garden Bird Survey, but the graph here shows their numbers in gardens increases significantly as the winter goes on! We often get people telling us that between sunflower hearts and nyjer seed, their local Goldfinches are eating them out of house and home - but who could be angry with a bird as beautiful and 'charming' as that?!
Siskins are a small species of finch, with a small pointed bill adapted for feeding on very fine seeds, not unlike the Goldfinch. Like the Goldfinch too, they are a species that's very fond of nyjer seed, though they will readily take to peanut and sunflower seed feeders too. They are seen in barely any gardens in December, increasing a bit in January, but by the start of February much of the natural food they rely upon (seeds on trees like Alder and Sitka Spruce) are gone and your garden feeders provide the ideal substitute! Despite their slow start to the winter, they can occur in over 40% of gardens by the end of February each winter. Many of these birds will have come here for the winter from Scotland and Scandinavia, so they desperately need to refuel before migrating back in March and April!
Another small finch, closely related to the Siskin, again with a fine bill and a similar excuse for being absent from gardens until after christmas, with numbers building into February and beyond! The red isn't always obvious on these birds, particularly on the females, and so some people can confuse them with other finch species including Twite (never come to gardens) or Linnets (much bigger!). If you have Goldfinches in your garden, chances are you have a good set up for attracting Redpolls too and they often come to nyjer, sunflower hearts and peanuts too!
The Blackcap is a warbler species, and like the other warblers we have in Ireland, those that breed here leave and migrate south for the winter. While our Irish-breeding Blackcaps are in Iberia and northern Africa during our winter months, Blackcaps from central Europe (same species, but a different population!) come to Ireland for the winter! This migratory route is thought to have developed in part due to the availability of food in Irish gardens, with a warming climate also likely to be playing a part. Numbers in gardens are low in December when there are still berries and fruits in the wider countryside to feed on, but by the end of February there'll be around three times as many Blackcaps in Irish gardens as there was when the Irish Garden Bird Survey started in December. They'll eat peanuts and fatballs in your garden, but also enjoy apples when cut in half and placed in a tree or on a bird table! Keep an eye out for brown-capped females too!
And the rest...The above are species that show a consistently strong trend, year after year, of increasing numbers from early December when the Irish Garden Bird Survey starts, to the end of February when the survey finishes. They're not the only species that show this trend though. Great Spotted Woodpeckers show a similar trend, though the effect isn't as strong as they still only appear in a small number of gardens in Ireland so far. For other species including Blackbird, Song Thrush, Redwing and Fieldfare, their occurrence in gardens is very weather dependent an you might see a big influx if we get snow or heavy frost in the coming weeks. The Pheasant hunting season is over for another year now too, so this may mean a wandering Pheasant might turn in your garden yet - taking advantage of any seed spilled beneath your feeders. If we get a mild February, you might start to see some territorial behaviour and birds leaving your garden as they start thinking about finding somewhere to nest. Don't forget that now is the perfect time to put up a nestbox in your garden! We've got a wide selection of nestboxes available in our shop, and by buying from us you're also helping support or vital conservation work!
The Irish Garden Bird Survey is BirdWatch Ireland's longest-running survey and is vital in tracking the fortunes of Ireland's garden bird species through the harsh winter months.
The survey is sponsored by the Ballymaloe Group.