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Chaffinch vs Bullfinch: Separating The Chaff From The Bull

Last Updated on: June 9, 2024

It’s a good idea to learn about one bird species at a time, but it’s always more exciting when you compare and contrast the features of two species at a go.

The two in this topic are in the same finch family, so you’ll probably find them in the same habitat. However, their physical features are different.

Hence…

As we have a chaffinch vs. bullfinch discussion, we’ll look at the main differences, including body length, plumage, favorite foods, and nesting habits. Let’s get started!

Main Differences Between Chaffinch Vs. Bullfinch

The main differences between chaffinch vs. bullfinch are:

  • A male chaffinch has a bluish-gray plumage from its forehead to the neck, whereas a male bullfinch has black feathers from under its bill, over the eyes, and head to its neck.
  •  A chaffinch is smaller as its body length is under six inches, whereas an adult bullfinch can grow to 6.5 inches.
  • A chaffinch is finch-like as it has a pointed, conical bill similar to other finches that eat seeds, whereas a bullfinch has a broad, round one. 
  • A chaffinch has a smaller wingspan averaging between 10 and 11 inches, whereas a Eurasian bullfinch averages 8.6 to 12.2 inches from one wing to the other.
  • A chaffinch is heavier as it weighs about an ounce, whereas a bullfinch weighs between 0.7 and 0.9 ounces.

Bullfinch Vs. Chaffinch: Physical Characteristics And Other ID Details

Bullfinch
Bullfinch
Chaffinch
Chaffinch

Since we’ve laid out the main differences between these two British finches above, it’ll be easier for us to look at each characteristic separately. Let’s start with:

Classification

Birds belong to a class, order, family, genus, and species. Let’s break down the classification of each of the two birds. 

Both species belong to the order Passeriformes, one of the largest orders with over 100 families and 6,500 species. You can tell species in this order by their toes, as three of their toes point forward and one backward. You might hear birders calling world finches perching birds because their toe arrangement makes perching easy.

Further, these two species belong to the same finch family, the Fringillidae, together with grosbeaks, siskins, and goldfinches.

There are three subfamilies under the Fringillidae finch family. That’s where you’ll see the difference between a chaffinch and a Eurasian bullfinch.

The former is in the Fringillinae subfamily, and the other small passerine bird belongs to the Carduelinae subfamily together with grosbeaks and other finches. 

You’ll also note the chaffinch is in the Fringilla genus with three other world finches: two chaffinch species and one brambling species

On the other hand, the Eurasian bullfinch is in the genus Pyrrhula with seven other bullfinch species. There’s even an endangered species in the genus Pyrrhula, the Azores bullfinch, with a population of about 100 birds.

On top of that, the binomial name for a common chaffinch is Fringilla coelebs, while a Eurasian bullfinch is Pyrrhula pyrrhula. Since these names are a mouthful, we’ll use the simpler ones and call them Fringilla coelebs and Pyrrhula pyrrhula here and there.

These two British finches have many subspecies. For instance, some of the Eurasian bullfinch subspecies are in Asia and Europe. As for the  Fringilla coelebs, its subspecies are in North Africa, Greece, and Cyprus. 

Therefore, prepare for an exceptional birding experience that’ll take you across countries and continents to finally list all the subgroups of chaffinches and bullfinches in your birding journal.

Breeding

Bullfinches nest in various habitats and build their home about seven feet from the ground. You may come across their nests in mature scrubs.

A Eurasian bullfinch shares the same habitat with the chaffinch, so you’re likely to see both world finches in woodlands, cities, and parks. They also visit bird feeders, and chaffinches even gather fallen seeds under bird tables when necessary. 

This finch family is prevalent in the UK, but you’ll see more chaffinches than bullfinches.

A Eurasian bullfinch lays between 4 and 7 eggs, while a chaffinch lays 4 to 5 eggs. Additionally, a Eurasian bullfinch lays bluish eggs, while the eggs of the other small passerine bird are bluish-green or light green with purplish-brown spots.

Food

Since both birds are regular backyard visitors, they love bird seeds. They eat different foods in summer and winter in the wild. In summer, you’ll see Fringilla coelebs gathering insects. In winter, it turns to nuts and fruits. A bullfinch would rather eat seeds in summer and winter and search for shoots and flowers in spring. 

Physical Characteristics & Songs

A Fringilla coelebs is heavier than a bullfinch, although by a few ounces because a bullfinch. On top of that, a bullfinch has a longer body length than a common chaffinch. Its bill is broad and round, while the other small passerine bird has a gray, pointed one.

These two world finches also have plumage differences. A male bullfinch has a black cap that matches its black wings, a pinkish-red underside, and a white rump. A male chaffinch has a blue-grey head, and the female small passerine bird has an olive-brown back and a gray-white underbelly. 

A chaffinch makes a good cage bird because it has sweet songs.


Watch This!


Frequently Asked Questions

Are chaffinches common in the UK?

Yes, they are as you see them in most of the United Kingdom. If you don’t come across a  Fringilla coelebs in the woodlands, you’ll see it in a park or garden. This small passerine bird also frequents backyard feeders.

Is a Eurasian bullfinch a robin?

If you’re referring to the European robin, they’re in the same classification order but aren’t in the same finch family or genus Pyrrhula. A European robin’s binomial name is Erithacus rubecula. It’s different from the American robin, another small passerine bird. 

However, an American robin is different from a bullfinch, and its binomial name is Turdus migratorius. It isn’t in the genus Pyrrhula either with the Eurasian bullfinch, as it’s in the Turdidae family and the genus Turdus. The birds in the genus Pyrrhula are all bullfinches.

What color is a female chaffinch?

As we mentioned earlier, the female has duller plumage as most of the body has gray-brown feathers. The underside is pale, the rump and lower back are olive-green, its wing bars are white, and its tail has some white feathers.


Conclusion

The chaffinch and bullfinch belong to the finch family. Their binomial names are Fringilla coelebs for the chaffinch and Pyrrhula pyrrhula for the Eurasian bullfinch. 

They aren’t in the same genus, and you can also tell them apart by weight, body length, plumage, and songs. The chaffinch is heavier, and the bullfinch is longer. A chaffinch makes a good cage bird as its songs are sweeter.

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