Linnet, the name of several birds of the finch family, of the genus linota (Bonap.) or cegioihus (Cab.); the distinguishing characters have been given under Finch, in the genus fringilla of which they are placed by Gray. The common brown linnet of Europe (L. can-nabina, Selb.) is about 5| in. long, with an extent of wings of 10 in.; the bill is moderately thick, the head small, the body ovate, the wings and tail moderate, and the tarsi very short and much compressed. In the adult male the winter plumage is reddish brown above with darker streaks, the throat yellowish gray streaked with brown, the forehead and breast reddish with yellowish gray edgings, and the bill dusky above; in the female the upper parts are streaked with dusky brown and grayish yellow, the lower yellowish gray with brownish streaks on the throat, breast, and sides; the young resemble the female. In summer the throat is whitish with brown streaks, the back and wing coverts reddish brown, with the forehead and breast rose red. This is the largest and most robust of the true European linnets, and one of the most lively; it is called brown, gray, or rose linnet, according to the season of the year and sex.
Toward winter they assemble in flocks and visit farm yards in search of seeds, sometimes in company with other finches; the flight is rapid and undulated, and the motions on the ground are active; the song is soft and mellow, and so varied and sweet as to render them great favorites as cage birds. They are easily raised from the nest, and eat the same food as the canary, with which as well as with the goldfinch they will pair. The nest is usually in a bush, very neatly made, and the eggs, four to six, are three fourths of an inch long, bluish white with purplish and reddish brown spots, especially at the larger end; there are commonly two broods in a season, the first being abroad by the end of May. As their name imports, they are very fond of the seeds of flax. The mountain linnet or twite (L. montana, Selb.) resembles the preceding, but is smaller, with a yellowish bill, and without any red on the head and breast or streaks on the throat. The green linnet has been described under Finch. - There are two linnets common to northern Europe and America, the lesser and the mealy red-poll linnet, referred, as above stated, to the genus cegiothus (Cab.). The lesser red-poll linnet (AE. linarius, Cab.) is 5 in. long and about 9 in extent of wings; these reach to the middle of the deeply forked tail.
The color above is light yellowish, with dark brown streaks; the crown crimson, and the upper breast and sides tinged with the same; rump and under tail coverts still lighter with dusky streaks; rest of under parts white, streaked with brown on the sides; lores and chin dusky; cheeks and narrow front whitish; wing and tail feathers edged with white; two yellowish white bands across the wing coverts; bill yellowish; this is the winter plumage, there being much more red in the spring. It is a lively, familiar, and favorite bird; the flight is peculiarly buoyant, and the notes are clear and loud; in the winter large flocks resort to the woods of birch and alder, on the seeds of which they feed. It is often kept as a pet in Europe for its lively and gentle disposition; it pairs with the canary and goldfinch. It is distributed generally over the northern and temperate parts of Europe and eastern North America, going south in winter, and is found as far west as Washington territory. The mealy red-poll linnet (AE. canescens, Cab.) is 6 in. long; the colors are as in the preceding species, but the edges of the feathers are paler and hoary, the rump grayish white, and the lower parts nearly white.
It inhabits Greenland and the northern portions of the continent, and doubtless occasionally wanders within the limits of the United States, as it does into Great Britain. - The bird commonly called linnet by dealers in New England is the purple finch (carpodacus purpureus, Gray), described under Finch.
Brown Linnet (Linota cannabina).
Lesser Red-poll Linnet (AEgriothus linarius). 1. Male. 2. Female.