|Male above, female below|
This bird is widespread throughout Europe, north Africa and south west Asia. It is mainly resident, but some northernmost populations migrate further south. The greenfinch has also been introduced into both Australia and New Zealand. In Malta it is considered a prestigious song bird which has been trapped for many years. It has been domesticated and many Maltese people breed them.
The greenfich was described by Linnaeus in 1758 in the 10th edition of his Systema Naturae under the binomial name of Loxia chloris. Chloris is from the Greek Khloros meaning "green" or "yellowish-green".
The finch family, Fringillidae, is divided into two subfamilies, the Carduelinae, containing around 28 genera with 141 species and the Fringillinae containing a single genus, Fringilla, with 3 species. The finch family are all seed-eaters with stout conical bills. They have similar skull morphologies, nine large primaries, twelve tail feathers and no crop. In all species the female bird builds the nest, incubates the eggs and broods the young. Fringilline finches raise their young almost entirely on arthropods while the cardueline finches raise their young on regurgitated seeds.
Phylogenetic analysis based on DNA sequence data indicated that the greenfinches were not closely related to other members of the Carduelis genus. They have therefore been placed in a separate genus Chloris.
- Chloris chloris harrisoni Clancey, 1940 – Britain (except northern Scotland) and Ireland
- Chloris chloris chloris (Linnaeus, 1758) – northern Scotland, northern and central France and Norway to western Siberia
- Chloris chloris muehlei Parrot, 1905 – Serbia and Montenegro to Moldovia, Bulgaria and Greece
- Chloris chloris aurantiiventris (Cabanis, 1851) – southern Spain through southern Europe to western Greece
- Chloris chloris madaraszi Tschusi, 1911 – Corsica and Sardinia
- Chloris chloris vanmarli Voous, 1952 – northwestern Spain, Portugal and northwestern Morocco
- Chloris chloris voousi (Roselaar, 1993) – central Morocco and northern Algeria
- Chloris chloris chlorotica (Bonaparte, 1850) – south-central Turkey to northeastern Egypt
- Chloris chloris bilkevitchi Zarudny, 1911 – southern Ukraine, the Caucasus and northeastern Turkey to northern Iran and southwestern Turkmenistan
- Chloris chloris turkestanica Zarudny, 1907 – southern Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan and central Tajikistan
The greenfinch is 15 cm long with a wing span of 24.5 to 27.5 cm. It is similar in size and shape to a house sparrow, but is mainly green, with yellow in the wings and tail. The female and young birds are duller and have brown tones on the back. The bill is thick and conical. The song contains a lot of trilling twitters interspersed with wheezes, and the male has a "butterfly" display flight.
Behaviour and ecology
This species can form large flocks outside the breeding season, sometimes mixing with other finches and buntings. They feed largely on seeds, but also take berries.
Breeding season occurs in spring, starting in the second half of March, until June, with fledging young in early July. Incubation lasts about 13-14 days, by the female. Male feeds her at the nest during this period. Chicks are covered with thick, long, greyish-white down at hatching. They are fed on insect larvae by both adults during the first days, and later, by frequent regurgitated yellowish past of seeds. They leave the nest about 13 days later but they are not able to fly. Usually, they fledge 16–18 days after hatching. This species produces two or three broods per year.
Predators and parasites
The protozoal parasite Trichomonas gallinae was known to infect pigeons and raptors but beginning in Britain in 2005, carcases of dead European greenfinches and common chaffinches were found to be infected with the parasite. The disease spread and in 2008 infected carcases were found in Norway, Sweden and Finland and a year later in Germany. The spread of the disease is believed to have been mediated by chaffinches as large numbers of the birds breed in northern Europe and winter in Britain. In Britain the number of infected carcases recovered each year declined after a peak in 2006. There was a reduction in the number of greenfinches from around 4.3 million to around 2.8 million but no significant decline in the overall number of chaffinches. A similar pattern occurred in Finland where, after the arrival of the disease in 2008, there was a reduction in the number of greenfinches but only a small change in the number of chaffinches.
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