There are 11 species of British finches – common ones like the chaffinch, goldfinch, linnet, redpoll and greenfinch, but less commonly seen birds like the siskin, bullfinch, crossbill, hawfinch, and twite. They all belong in the taxonomic family Fringillidae. Finches are a very successful family, and can be found on all continents except Antarctica.
Three of these species of birds – greenfinch, chaffinch and goldfinch – are regular visitors to our garden and maybe to yours too? In fact, we get scores of goldfinches in the garden at one time, and I have seen large charms of them, perhaps more than 120 birds, fly around the centre of the village.
When I was child, I never saw a goldfinch at all and I longed to see one, but we did used to get lots of bullfinches in our garden. My father would ask me to run down the garden towards the plum tree to scare them away when he saw them eating the plum blossom in the spring. Now bullfinches are rare, and in the last 20 years I have only seen them in our garden here in Oxfordshire twice.
Finches the world over often wear very handsome costumes and it’s no different for the species we get here in Britain. Aren’t they gorgeous?! Which one is your favourite?
This painting celebrates the incredible work of my hero, the scandalously unsung Alfred Russel Wallace. Wallace came up with the theory of natural selection independently of Darwin and established the study of biogeography.
This painting is no longer available, and is shown here for your viewing pleasure and for the glory of Wallace.
Read more about Wallace here.