Carduelis (or Chloris) chloris

A sound I hear frequently at the moment when I open a door or a window which stands out from all other birdcalls is the call of the male greenfinch. It’s quite variable in tone from fairly high pitched, as in the recording here, to lower pitched where it almost sounds like a whirring mechanical toy.

The bird in these pictures has a reddish hue to it because it was being lit by the evening sun as it was getting lower in the sky, and also from the reflected light of the rusty ironwork and insulators of the electricity supply cables:

Greenfinch male calling from the top of a telegraph pole

The female greenfinch is similar to the male but her colours are much more drab, she is darker grey/brown without the vibrant green of the male.

The greenfinch is a resident breeder in the UK and can be found in gardens and parks at all times of the year feeding on bigger seeds and sometimes insects when rearing youngsters. It has a chunky beak which is typical of finches and is custom built for cracking open seeds.

The taxonomic name for the greenfinch is listed in some references as ‘Carduelis chloris‘, as in my RSPB ‘Complete Birds of Britain and Europe’ by Rob Hume published in 2002, (RSPB – Royal Society for the protection of Birds) ISBN 0751373540, and also in the RSPB Bird Identifier website. But in the BTO BirdFacts website (BTO – British Trust for Ornithology) and in my Collins Bird Guide 2nd edition from 2010, ISBN 978 0 00 726726 2, it is listed as ‘Chloris chloris‘ (Dansk: grønirisk). Somewhat confusingly the BTO entry goes on to explain that the name derives from ‘carduelis‘ meaning ‘goldfinch’ and the Greek ‘khloros‘ meaning ‘green’. So it appears that the two names may be interchangeable. Incidentally, the chemical element chlorine also derives its name from khloros as it exists as a green gas.

He’s turned round to keep on eye on me – his seed-cracking beak clearly visible

The poor old greenfinch has taken a bit of a battering in the last few years since 2005 from the trichomonad parasite which causes a disease called trichomonosis. This microscopic parasite lives in the upper digestive tracts of several birds species including other finches, house sparrows (Passer domesticus, Dansk:  gråspurv) and pigeons and doves. I’ve heard that feeders may become contaminated by pigeons from where it infects the smaller birds. It’s particularly unpleasant (as are most parasitic infestations!) because it causes the throat to swell to the point where the birds can’t swallow so they eventually die of starvation.

Fortunately I’ve never seen any evidence of infected birds but if you think you may have a problem you can click here for the RSPB advice sheet which has details on how to identify the problem and how best to deal with it.

23 responses to “Carduelis (or Chloris) chloris

  1. Belatedly coming to this thread… are we talking about avian trichomoniasis (Trichomonas gallinae)? Goofle has just found me this Canadian factsheet$department/deptdocs.nsf/all/agdex4444 which says, ‘Turkeys and chickens likely become infected through contaminated drinking water or food.’ In which case, I should research whether this disease has arrived in the UK poultry industry.

    Meanwhile poor greenfinches. I’m very fond of them but, now you mention it, I don’t recall when I last saw one.

  2. Pingback: All the other garden birds… | The Naturephile

  3. What a stunning bird. More great shots, Finn. There is something particularly interesting about the electrical cables and iron in combination with the bird. We don’t have greenfinches here, but my daughter (almost 4) loves to spot the purple finches in our yard.

    • Thanks Melanie, I like the juxtaposition of industry and nature, it makes me think that whatever abuses we humans throw at the environment wild creatures will find a way to co-exist.

      I love the finches too, they’re all so colourful. One day I may compile all my finch pictures for a UK finch post.

  4. I find my water dish is contaminated daily by droppings and try to refresh it with new water daily. I clean the feeders every few weeks but maybe this needs to be more regularly?

    • I clean the water container and the seed feeders every time I fill them up. I guess it depends on whether you have trichomonosis in your area, but I prefer to err on the side of caution.

  5. Lovely to see the greenfinch pics- I know quite a few photographers who don’t take shots of birds in such situations, preferring more aesthetic surroundings. I like to see the way birds utilise our constructions and even sometimes gain something from them. I hadn’t heard about the parasite problem, it sounds horrific, as if the poor old birds don’t have enough to contend with.

    • I’m with you, I think humans are part of nature and I like to show the link in my photographs where I can. I think we deny or break that link at out peril!

  6. Finn, a very interesting account as ever there. Of note, did you know that of all the common Finches, only the Chaffinch can be seen taking food back to their young? In other words, the others, Greenfinch included, feed their young by regurgitation. It makes my work when looking at hedgerow birds, of which a few are Finch species particularly difficult. On a lighter note however, if by mid May into early summer and beyond, you have Finches coming to your feeders, they could well be stocking up to feed their young nearby. Hence, the importance of us to keep our feeders topped up and in clean condition.

    Best Wishes


    • Thanks for your comment Tony and a good point about keeping the feeders clean. Regurgitation is how the trichomonad parasite is passed on to the young, as it resides at the top of the digestive tract.

  7. That’s a very good looking bird!

  8. Great shots, Finn, especially the first. It looks like he’s really giving a piece of his mind to someone just offstage to the right.

  9. delicate bird atop something so sturdy and un-natural…beautiful juxtaposition…or irony maybe, if given more thought

    thank you, Finn

  10. Splendid shots! He’s a fine fellow, the greenfinch, but I’m very sorry to hear about the parasite problem. I do worry about the droppings of birds being mixed with seeds, which I suppose is why the RSPB suggest you move your feeders from time to time.

    • Thanks Lorna, he’s a handsome chap isn’t he.

      If the birds are crapping on the feeders they need to be cleaned fairly frequently to prevent the spread of disease. There are other bacteria and viruses that can be spread that way too, so cleanliness is indeed next to godliness!

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