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24th August 2023

Species Highlight: Bullfinch (Pyrrhula Pyrrhula)

Name that tune!

Take a stroll along the winding pathway through the gardens at Meudon, and you will often find yourself immersed in a melodic, sonic symphony of birdsong. From the repetitive musical phrases of the Song Thrush (Turdus Philomelos) to the mournful mewing call of the Buzzard (Buteo Buteo), once the ear has tuned into the specific rhythms and pitches, it is possible to differentiate and recognise the vocal gymnastics of individual species. One charismatic character in particular that frequents the gardens is the bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), and if you can pick out it’s piped ‘pew pew’ sounds, or its quiet warbling amongst the other melodies from the treetops, then you may get a chance of a glimpse of one…

The elusive Bullfinch

Native and widely distributed across the UK, bullfinches are easily distinguished by their bulky stature with the males expressing a bright reddish chest, black cap and a short beak (a classic characteristic of the finch family). Like many bird species, bullfinches display sexual dimorphism meaning the male and female do not look alike in physical characteristics, with the female possessing a duller pink-grey breast.

This unmistakable species usually travels in pairs, nesting in shrubs such as hawthorns. Due to their shy nature, you are more likely to hear their whistled calls, before you catch a glimpse of the red chest.

The feathered disruptor!

Historically, this species was quite the disruptor specifically, in the 16th century. Their preference for buds from trees were referred to ‘criminal attacks’ by Henry VIII, resulting in Parliament offering one penny for every bird that was killed. Their inclination for tree buds posed serious risk to orchards and commercial fruit trees. Thankfully they are not persecuted in this way today!

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A safe haven

According to the IUCN Red List (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Bullfinches are in the ‘Least Concern’ category however their numbers are on the decline. Here at Meudon, the gardens provide the perfect habitat for this species and we are very grateful that they choose to grace us with their presence, adding to the rich tapestry of flora and fauna in this beautiful space.

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