Where are the chaffinches?

At this time of year I am anxiously looking for flocks of chaffinches, hoping to see a brambling among them (and to get a year tick). But there aren’t any.

Brambling at my window in Turville, December 2010

Four years ago, when I was doing the River Thame Conservation Trust survey in the nearby Wormsley Valley, the British Trust for Ornithology’s website challenged my 81 chaffinches as ‘unusually high bird count’. I knew I was right though, for at that time large flocks were commonplace.

Chaffinch at Loch Garten, photo: Walter Baxter

It seems that chaffinches, like us, are suffering from a pandemic. The BTO’s bird atlas records an 18 per cent decline since 1994 and a 27 per cent decline in the last ten years. The cause is thought to be trichomonosis, a disease which prevents the chaffinches from feeding, and spreads rapidly among garden birds.

So while there are plenty of tits, in my garden and nearby woods, there are very few chaffinches. A great loss.

About campaignerkate

I am the general secretary of the Open Spaces Society and I campaign for public access, paths and open spaces in town and country.
This entry was posted in Birds, British Trust for Ornithology and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Where are the chaffinches?

  1. Allen Pestell says:

    I have noticed a decline in Chaffinch in recent years.Still get the odd 2 or 3.to my table.Goldfinch however appear on the increase .A even had a Redpol for a couple of days.

  2. Pete Johnstone says:

    Sadly the same is true here on the Isle of Wight – very few Chaffinches on the island – I have not seen one in the garden in the past 4 years, yet occasionally see them up in the Forest (well away from any gardens)

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