This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
The Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), Fig. 34, a member, as the name implies, of the family Fringillidae or Finches, is 6 or 7 in. in length in the male, the female rather smaller and altogether duller and less attractive in colouring than the male. The male is very handsome, bill bluish, black at tip, forehead black, sides of head dull pink, crown, nape and sides of neck bluish lead-colour, chin, throat and breast on its upper part dull pink, back chestnut-brown with greyish-yellow margins to the feathers, the greater wing coverts black at the base, broadly tipped with yellowish-white, forming a conspicuous bar, some of lesser wing coverts white, others tipped with white, forming another bar; first three quills black with white on their margins, the rest with their bases and part of their inner webs white, and with pale yellow margins on half the outer webs, tail slightly forked, two middle feathers lead colour, next ones black, and the outside one on each side with whole or part of the outer web white. The nest is formed in various situations: very often in a fruit tree in the orchard or garden, sometimes in a hedge, and even in a low bush, such as furze on a common.
The very beautiful nest is usually covered outside with tree-moss and lichen, and inside lined with feathers, wool or hair, stalks of grass, roots, etc., being woven into the other materials, thus securing a compactness of considerable strength. The eggs are four or five in number, of a dull bluish-green clouded with dull red, irregularly streaked and spotted with dark, dull, well-defined red markings. Two broods are hatched in the year. The young are chiefly reared upon aphides and various small caterpillars.
Fig. 34. - The Chaffinch and Leaf-rolling Caterpillar.
The chaffinch is very common in Britain, where its haunts are chiefly gardens and shrubberies, hedgerows, and plantations, in winter visiting farmsteads and even dwellings and stables, etc. The song of the chaffinch is lively and pleasant, but lacking variety, and its call-note has a cheerful sound. In the autumn the females separate from the males and remove to a different locality, hence the specific name of coelebs. Thus gregarious in flocks of males, and in flocks of females and perhaps also their young, the chaffinches abide over winter, and in spring pair. The food consists of seeds, chiefly of weeds, such as charlock, chickweed, groundsel, plantain, etc., insects and their larvae, the young being fed almost exclusively with soft insects. Chaffinches are also very fond of germinating seeds, plucking up seedling Brassicas in cotyledon growth, radish and turnip suffering severely, also lettuce, salsify, and other Compositae.