|Male in breeding plumage in England|
|Female in Scotland|
The common linnet (Carduelis cannabina) is a small passerine bird of the finch family, Fringillidae. It derives its scientific name from its fondness for hemp and its English name from its liking for seeds of flax, from which linen is made.
The common linnet is a slim bird with a long tail. The upper parts are brown, the throat is sullied white and the bill is grey. The summer male has a grey nape, red head-patch and red breast. Females and young birds lack the red and have white underparts, the breast streaked buff.
The common linnet breeds in Europe, western Asia and north Africa. It is partially resident, but many eastern and northern birds migrate further south in the breeding range or move to the coasts. They are sometimes found several hundred miles off-shore.
Open land with thick bushes is favoured for breeding, including heathland and garden. It builds its nest in a bush, laying 4-7 eggs.
This species can form large flocks outside the breeding season, sometimes mixed with other finches, such as twite, on coasts and salt marshes.
The common linnet's pleasant song contains fast trills and twitters.
It feeds on the ground, and low down in bushes, its food mainly consisting of seeds, which it also feeds to its chicks. It likes small to medium sized seeds from most arable weeds, knotgrass, dock), crucifers (including charlock, shepherd's purse), chickweeds, dandelions, thistle, sow-thistle, mayweed, common groundsel, common hawthorn and birch. They have a small component of Invertebrates in their diet.
||The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United Kingdom and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (November 2011)|
In Britain, populations are declining, attributed to increasing use of herbicides, aggressive scrub removal and excessive hedge trimming; its population fell by 56% between 1968 and 1991, probably due to a decrease in seed supply and the increasing use of herbicide. From 1980-2009, according to the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme, the European population decreased by 62%
Favourable management practices on agricultural land include:
- Overwinter stubbles
- Uncultivated margins, ditches, field corners
- Conservation headlands
- Wild bird cover, using plants that produce small, oil-rich seeds, such as kale, quinoa, mustard plant and oil-seed rape Brassica napus
- Restoration of meadows: restoration and creation of hay-meadows
- Short, thick, thorny hedgerows and scrub for nesting habitat
The bird was a popular pet in the late Victorian and Edwardian eras. Tennyson mentions "the linnet born within the cage" in part 27 of the poem In Memoriam A.H.H, the same section that contains the famous lines "'Tis better to have loved and lost / Than never to have loved at all." A "cock linnet" features in the classic British music hall song of that period My Old Man, and as a character in Oscar Wilde's children's story The Devoted Friend. Wilde also mentions how the call of the linnet awakens The Selfish Giant to the one tree where it is springtime in his garden. William Butler Yeats evokes the image of the common linnet in The Lake Isle of Innisfree (1890) in line 8: "And evening full of the linnet's wings." In the novel The Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens, the heroine Nell keeps "only a poor linnet" in a cage, which she leaves for Kit as a sign of her gratefulness to him.
"The Linnets" has become the nickname of King's Lynn Football Club, Burscough Football Club and Runcorn Linnets Football Club (formerly known as 'Runcorn F.C.' and Runcorn F.C. Halton). Barry Town F.C., the South Wales-based football team, also used to be nicknamed 'The Linnets'.
William Blake invokes "the linnet's song" in one of the poems entitled "Song" in his "Poetical Sketches."
William Wordsworth argued that the song of the common linnet provides more wisdom than books in the third verse of The Tables Turned:
- "Books! 'tis a dull and endless strife:
- Come, hear the woodland linnet,
- How sweet his music! on my life,
- There's more of wisdom in it."
But the fellow English poet Robert Bridges used the common linnet instead to express the limitations of poetry - concentrating on the difficulty in poetry of conveying the beauty of a bird's song. He wrote in the first verse:
- "I heard a linnet courting
- His lady in the spring:
- His mates were idly sporting,
- Nor stayed to hear him sing
- His song of love.--
- I fear my speech distorting
- His tender love."
The musical Sweeney Todd features the song "Green Finch and Linnet Bird," in which a young lady confined to her room wonders why caged birds sing:
- "Green finch and linnet bird,
- Nightingale, blackbird,
- How is it you sing?
- How can you jubilate,
- Sitting in cages,
- Never taking wing?"
- BirdLife International (2012). "Carduelis cannabina". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Carduelis cannabina.|
|Wikisource has the text of the 1921 Collier's Encyclopedia article Common linnet.|
- ARChive Videos, stills
- BBC Wildlifefinder BBC videos, sound files and information programmes featuring Linnets
- Ageing and sexing (PDF; 4.8 MB) by Javier Blasco-Zumeta & Gerd-Michael Heinze
- RSPB A management guide to birds of lowland farmland