1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Chaffinch

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CHAFFINCH (Fringilla coelebs), the common English name of a bird belonging to the family Fringillidae (see FINCH), and distinguished, in the male sex, by the deep greyish blue of its crown feathers, the yellowish green of its rump, the white of the wing covert, so disposed as to form two conspicuous bars, and the reddish brown passing into vinous red of the throat and breast. The female is drab, but shows the same white markings as the male, and the young males resemble the females until after the first autumn moult, when they gradually assume the plumage of their sex. The chaffinch breeds early in the season, and its song may often be heard in February. Its nest, which is a model of neatness and symmetry, it builds on trees and bushes, preferring such as are overgrown with moss and lichens. It is chiefly composed of moss and wool, lined internally with grass, wool, feathers, and whatever soft material the locality affords. The outside consists of moss and lichens, and according to Selby, "is always accordant with the particular colour of its situation." When built in the neighbourhood of towns the nest is somewhat slovenly and untidy, being often composed of bits of dirty straw, pieces of paper and blackened moss; in one instance, near Glasgow, the author of the Birds of the West of Scotland found several postage-stamps thus employed. It lays four or five eggs of a pale purplish buff, streaked and spotted with purplish red. In spring the chaffinch is destructive to early flowers, and to young radishes and turnips just as they appear above the surface; in summer, however, it feeds principally on insects and their larvae, while in autumn and winter its food consists of grain and other seeds. On the continent of Europe the chaffinch is a favourite song-bird, especially in Germany, where great attention is paid to its training.