Eurasian bullfinch

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Bullfinch male.jpg
Male in Lancashire, UK
Pyrrhula pyrrhula female 2.jpg
Female in Lancashire, UK
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Aves
Order: Passeriformes
Family: Fringillidae
Genus: Pyrrhula
Species: P. pyrrhula
Binomial name
Pyrrhula pyrrhula
(Linnaeus, 1758)

The bullfinch, common bullfinch or Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) 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.

Taxonomy and systematics[edit]

The taxonomy was described in 2001 by Arnaiz-Villena et al. The closest relative of the bullfinches is genus Pinicola (pine grosbeak and crimson-browed finch).[2][3]


Described subspecies include:[4]

  • P. p. pileata W. MacGillivray, 1837 – British Isles
  • P. p. europoea Vieillot, 1816 – western and central Europe
  • P. p. iberiae Voous, 1951 – mountains of south-west France, northern Portugal and northern Spain. [2][3]
  • 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.[2][3]

The Azores bullfinch, previously regarded as a subspecies of Eurasian bullfinch, is now recognised as a distinct species.


Male (right) and female

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. The song of this unobtrusive bird contains fluted whistles.

Distribution and habitat[edit]

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.

Behaviour and ecology[edit]

This species does not form large flocks outside the breeding season, and is usually seen as a pair or family group.


Male with young bird in Austria
Pyrrhula pyrrhula europoea MHNT

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.[5]


Young male in England

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.[6] If wild bird cover is planted for it, kale, quinoa and millet are preferred, next to tall hedges or woodland.


  1. ^ BirdLife International (2012). "Pyrrhula pyrrhula". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Version 2013.2. International Union for Conservation of Nature. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c Arnaiz-Villena, A et al. (2001). "Phylogeography of crossbills, bullfinches, grosbeaks,and rosefinches" (PDF). Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences 58: 1159–1166. doi:10.1007/PL00000930. PMID 11529508. 
  3. ^ a b c Arnaiz-Villena, A; Gómez-Prieto P; Ruiz-de-Valle V (2009). "Phylogeography of finches and sparrows". Nova Science Publishers. ISBN 978-1-60741-844--3. 
  4. ^ "Eurasian Bullfinch". Internet Bird Collection (HBW 15, p. 609). Lynx Editions. 2010. Retrieved 2012-07-01. 
  5. ^ Birkhead, Timothy R.; Immler, Simone; Pellatt, E. Jayne & Freckleton, Robert (2006): Unusual sperm morphology in the Eurasian Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula). Auk 123(2): 383–392. DOI: 10.1642/0004-8038(2006)123[383:USMITE]2.0.CO;2 HTML abstract
  6. ^ Dyda J, Symes N and Lamacraft D (2009) Woodland management for birds: a guide to managing woodland for priority birds in Wales. The RSPB, Sandy and Forestry Commission Wales, Aberystwyth, ISBN 978-1-905601-15-8

External links[edit]