Birding News

A Decline in Chaffinches Across the UK


Coming as a surprise to many, Chaffinches are on the decline. The result of recent survey data from the RSPB/BTO/JNCC has revealed that the Chaffinch population is slowly decreasing, “In just eleven years from 2007 – 2018, the UK Chaffinch population fell by a staggering 30%” (OBC). They are not currently under threat of extinction but it is important now, more than ever, that we keep an eye on this decline so the Chaffinch can continue to be the ‘common’ bird that we know and love.

Why is there a decline?

Unfortunately, there are a few reasons as to why we are seeing a decline and a lot of them seem to be due to environmental changes. However there are ways that we can help our neighbourhood birds return to our gardens in numbers, below we have listed some of the reasons for their decline and how we can help:

Disease: There are 2 known diseases that affect our Chaffinches, Fringilla Papillomavirus and Trichomonosis. Fringilla Papillomavirus is a mite which causes lumps and a ‘scaly’ look on the birds legs/feet. It can also spread to their beak. Trichomonosis affects a bird’s digestive system and is a disease caused by a parasite which is spread during breeding season when a bird regurgitates its food to feed its young.

How you can help: To help reduce the spread of Fringilla Papillomavirus there is something that we can do. Cleaning your bird feeders and bird tables frequently can help reduce the spread of this. This is important at this time as this disease has started to have been spotted in other birds.

Agricultural changes: Agriculture continues to have an impact on Chaffinches habitat. When expanding planting space the hedgerow, which is where you can find Chaffinches nesting, is disturbed and sometimes even destroyed. As well as this, chemicals and pesticides used to kill weeds can lead to disruption in food webs which can affect essential foods that Chaffinches reply upon.

How you can help: There are a few things that you can do to help if you work in the agricultural industry. The first is to be mindful of where you are expanding your farming space, if this involves disturbing the natural surroundings, consider choosing a different spot or provide an alternative place for the wildlife who live there to nest. Also look into using pesticides as a last resort, reducing your use of it where possible can help with a Chaffinches natural food cycle.

Climate conditions: Climate change has meant that our weather can be unpredictable and is happening at the wrong times of year. Animals’ life cycles are having to adapt with this, for example plants are budding early which means that all other wildlife is having to adapt around this. Although this change is happening slowly this can be confusing to Chaffinches and they struggle to find food sources at their correct time of year. 

How you can help: To help with this we should look at making sure our feeding stations are always full, so that when any bird comes looking for food they know where to find it.

The Chaffinch appeal:

The BTO has developed a research programme that is designed to help monitor the Chaffinch decline and pinpoint the source. They are collecting donations to help fuel their research, every donation helps support this and they are working to stop the Chaffinch decline before it gets too serious.

Here at Viking Optical we are passionate about making sure all birds are well looked after, and we understand that the Chaffinches need our help at the moment. Our monoculars are the perfect optical for quick access when spotting a bird, if we can help to monitor the number of Chaffinches we see we can help participate in this critical research. For more information on our optical equipment speak to us on 01986 875315 or send us an email via