Hawfinch (Coccothraustes coccothraustes)

The hawfinch is a member of the finch family, with its scientific name being Coccothraustes coccothraustes. Its closest living relatives are located in America, one being the evening grosbeak (Hesperiphona vespertinus) from North America, and the other being the hooded grosbeak (Hesperiphona abeillei) from Central America, particularly Mexico.

In the UK, the hawfinch is the largest finch, with a huge, powerful bill. Despite its compelling bill, the hawfinch is usually shy and difficult to see. What’s more they are getting more difficult to spot because their traditional breeding areas have declined in recent years. Typically there are 500 – 1000 pairs in the UK breeding, with 10,000 – 15,000 birds in population in winter, between October to March.

Appearance

Hawfinches have a bulky head which is orange-brown with a black eye-stripe and bib. They have a huge bill which varies in colour, typically black in summer but paler blue/brown in winter. The upper parts are dark brown, with the underparts orange, and legs are brown/pink.

This member of the finch family measures 16.5 cm – 18 cm in length, weighing between 48-62g.

The hawfinch appears very short-tailed in flight, yet its white wing bars and tail tip are striking in flight. Their wingspan measures 29 – 33cm.

Both sexes are similar in appearance.

Hawfinch bill

The hawfinch bill

Habitat and Nesting

The hawfinch breeds across Europe and temperate Asia, and very rarely can be found in Alaska. However, in the UK they are mostly restricted to England, and mainly seen in the Home Counties, Western Borders and the south-east from Hampshire to Kent.

Hawfinches favour mixed woodland and build their nests in a bush or tree, which has easy access to open air. The male layers lots of dry twigs, grass and lichen to build the nest and after around two weeks, the female takes over.

Breeding

Hawfinches first breed when they are one years old, which, dependant on temperature, takes place in spring. In Britain, most clutches are laid between the end of April and the end of June.

Four to five eggs are laid early in the morning at daily intervals, which vary in shape and colour. Hawfinch eggs weigh around 3.89g, measuring 24.1mm x 17.5mm in size. They are smooth, glossy and a mix of blue or grey/green with sparse black markings in colour.

Both parents feed the young until they fledge after 12 – 14 days.

Voice

The song of the unobtrusive hawfinch is quiet and muffled, and can be described as robin-like “tic tic”.

Diet

Primarily the hawfinch feeds on hard seeds from trees, together with fruit seeds which they can easily break with their tough beak. It can even break through the seeds of plums, cherries and even olive seeds.

Hawfinches tend to eat in groups, especially in the winter, and also commonly eat berries, pine seeds, sprouts and the occasional caterpillar.

Try the interactive Hawfinch

Attract Hawfinches with the following food

Premium Suet Balls

Our premium suet balls each contain over 90g of high grade, quality beef suet, blended with wheat, peanuts and dried mealworms.

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Ultiva® Gold Seed Mix

This hugely popular bird seed mix has been at the forefront of GardenBird for many years. A top seller, the inspiration came from a missing link in the bird food chain – a blend focused on oil-rich ingredients.

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Ultiva® Everyday Seed Mix

A fantastic premium ‘starter’ mix for attracting a whole host of different garden birds, Ultiva® Everyday Seed Mix is a combination of the most popular bird food ingredients.

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Ultiva® High Protein Insect Mix

Ultiva® High Protein Insect Mix features a combination of the highest-yield, energy-dense bird favourites available: sunflower hearts, an infusion of nutritionally beneficial dried mealworm, as well as other tempting ingredients such as oatmeal, kibbled peanuts and white dari.

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