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The Eurasian Bullfinch, Common bullfinch or bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula), called Domherre in Skåne, is a small passerine bird in the finch family, Fringillidae. In Anglophone Europe it is known simply as bullfinch, as it is the original bird to bear the name bullfinch.
Distribution and habitat
This bird breeds across Europe and temperate Asia. It is mainly resident, but many northern birds migrate further south in the winter. Mixed woodland with some conifers is favoured for breeding, including parkland and gardens.
Range map from www.oiseaux.net - Ornithological Portal Oiseaux.net
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Taxonomy and systematics
The Eurasian bullfinch was listed in 1758 by Linnaeus in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae under the binomial name Loxia pyrrhula. The Latin word pyrrhula comes from the Greek πυρρός (a flame-coloured bird, from πυρρός flame coloured, from πυρ fire : Pyrrha), a 'worm eating bird' that is mentioned by Aristotle.
The Latin name for the species had been used by Swiss naturalist Conrad Gesner in his Historiae animalium of 1555.
The closest relatives of the bullfinches are in genus Pinicola (pine grosbeak and crimson-browed finch).
Described subspecies include:
• P. p. pileata W. MacGillivray, 1837 – British Isles
• P. p. europaea Vieillot, 1816 – western and central Europe
• P. p. iberiae Voous, 1951 – mountains of south-west France, northern Portugal and northern Spain
• P. p. pyrrhula (Linnaeus, 1758) – northern, south central and eastern Europe across Siberia and central Asia to the Sea of Okhotsk
• P. p. rossikowi Derjugin & Bianchi, 1900 – Turkey, Caucasus and north-west Iran
• P. p. caspica Witherby, 1908 – Azerbaijan and northern Iran
• P. p. cineracea Cabanis, 1872 (Baikal bullfinch) – Siberia, north-east Kazakhstan, Mongolia and China
• P. p. cassinii S.F. Baird, 1869 – Russian Far East and north-eastern China
• P. p. griseiventris Lafresnaye, 1841 – Russian Far East, China, Korea and Japan
The Azores bullfinch (P. murina), previously regarded as a subspecies of the Eurasian bullfinch, is now recognised as a distinct species.
The bullfinch is a bulky bull-headed bird. The upper parts are grey; the flight feathers and short thick bill are black; as are the cap and face in adults (they are greyish-brown in juveniles), and the white rump and wing bars are striking in flight.
The adult male has red underparts, but females and young birds have grey-buff underparts. It moults between July and October, but males do not have the duller autumn plumage that is typical of some other finches. The song of this unobtrusive bird contains fluted whistles, and is often described as 'mournful'.
The adult male has red underparts, but females and young birds have grey-buff underparts. It moults between July and October
Behaviour and ecology
This species does not form large flocks outside the breeding season, and is usually seen as a pair or family group.
It builds its nest in a bush, (preferably more than four metres tall and wide), mature stands of scrub, or tree, laying four to seven eggs. It is peculiar among Passeriformes for having spermatozoa with a rounded head and a blunt acrosome.
Eggs of P. pyrrhula europoea MHNT
By Didier Descouens - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0,
The food is mainly seeds and buds of fruit trees, which can make it a pest in orchards. Ash and hawthorn are favoured in autumn and early winter. If wild bird cover is planted for it, kale, quinoa and millet are preferred, next to tall hedges or woodland.