If I were religious, I’d consider the male Bullfinch a gift from the gods to aspiring artists. To have such a perfect contrast of striking colours allied to such stunning effect. It really is one of our loveliest sights.
Happily, we have local pairs of Bullfinches and do get them in the garden. It is however a last resort, and we have taken to calling them ‘rain birds’ because they tend to show up on the feeders only in the worst conditions.
With this opportunity though has come two great discoveries. Firstly, they can be almost as tame as any Robin, Sparrow or Chaffinch. I doubt they’d ever feed from the hand, but ours now relax enough that we can potter in the garden and they will sit peacefully on the feeder.
Secondly, I have discovered their call. I’ve spoken on here many times before of the importance and value of listening to and learning birdsong, and the call of the bullfinch is one of my favourites. It’s beautiful, soft, and mournful. There is an almost indescribable air of loss and sadness to it, and I always expect to look out and see just one bird looking for a missing mate. Yet this is their standard call.
What’s remarkable is that such a soft call can carry so well. I will hear it from the house and look out expecting the bird to be in the garden. But it may be in trees and bushes a hundred metres away across the river. Bird songs and calls have that remarkable quality, evolving in environments where they have to be heard, so even a soft note has some element that allows it to carry perfectly through the storm.
A further blessing is that we generally, briefly, see the young bullfinches too. They are marked more like the female, but with a slightly orange hue to the otherwise muted palate of greys.
Next week is Christmas, but Monday Bird of the Week will still be here on Boxing Day with a festive special.