Family Finches (Fringillidae)

Least Concern

Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs)


French: Pinson des arbres German: Buchfink Spanish: Pinzón vulgar

Fringilla cœlebs


, 1758,



Has hybridized with F. montifringilla. Geographical variation complex. Races commonly considered to form three groups, “coelebs group” (European and Asian races), “spodiogenys group” (also including africana, harterti, moreletti and maderensis), and “canariensis group” (also including ombriosa and palmae), with Canarian taxa appearing dramatically different from those in mainland Europe, but African and Madeiran taxa intermediate (and sometimes further subdivided into two separate groups, as here); in genetic studies, large differences between “coelebs group” and “canariensis group”, but less clearly so between “spodiogenys group” and “coelebs group”, with nominate and africana evidently closely related; further study required. Nevertheless, some authorities have treated Atlantic Is taxa as forming three species#R. Considerable variation within races, especially nominate, and wide degree of intermediates. Nominate race varies clinally; races sarda, syriaca, solomkoi and alexandrovi possibly represent extreme limit of variation of nominate, but further research required; proposed races hortensis (from Anhalt, in C Germany), balearica (Mallorca), tyrrhenica (Corsica), schiebeli (Crete), caucasica (S Caucasus region) and wolfgangi (Tomsk, in W Siberia) all considered to fall within range of variation of nominate. Additional races are scotica (described from Carmunnock, in SW Scotland) and hibernicus (Glengariff, in SW Ireland), both synonymized with gengleri, and tintillon (Tenerife), treated as a synonym of canariensis. Race transcaspia sometimes misspelt “transcaspica”. Fifteen subspecies currently recognized.

Subspecies and Distribution
  • F. c. gengleri O. Kleinschmidt, 1909 – British Is.
  • F. c. coelebs Linnaeus, 1758 – Common Chaffinch – Europe (except British Is) E to SC Siberia (R Angara and S L Baikal) and extreme N Mongolia#R, S to Balearic Is, Corsica, Sicily, S Greece, Crete, N & W Turkey, N Lebanon, Caucasus and N Kazakhstan; non-breeding also S to N Africa, Ukraine, and SW Asia E to NW & SE Afghanistan, N & W Pakistan (Gilgit and Baluchistan) and N Nepal.
  • F. c. sarda Rapine, 1925 – Sardinia.
  • F. c. solomkoi Menzbier & Sushkin, 1913 – Balkans E to Crimea and W Caucasus; winters also Turkey and Iran.
  • F. c. syriaca J. M. Harrison, 1945 – Cyprus, Levant, SE Turkey and N Iraq.
  • F. c. alexandrovi Zarudny, 1916 – W & N Iran; winters E Turkey, N Iraq and NC Iran.
  • F. c. transcaspia Zarudny, 1916 – S Caucasus, NE Iran and S Turkmenistan; winters N Iran and Iraq.
  • F. c. africana J. Levaillant, 1850 – Morocco E to NW Tunisia.
  • F. c. spodiogenys Bonaparte, 1841 – African Chaffinch – E Tunisia and NW Libya (Tripoli).
  • F. c. harterti Svensson, 2015 – NE Libya (Cyrenaica).
  • F. c. moreletti Pucheran, 1859 – Atlantic Chaffinch – Azores.
  • F. c. maderensis Sharpe, 1888 – Madeira.
  • F. c. palmae Tristram, 1889 – NW Canary Is (La Palma).
  • F. c. ombriosa E. J. O. Hartert, 1913 – SW Canary Is (El Hierro).
  • F. c. canariensis Vieillot, 1817 – Canary Chaffinch – C Canary Is (La Gomera, Tenerife, Gran Canaria).
  • Introduced (nominate race or gengleri) in S South Africa (Cape Town area) and New Zealand.

    Descriptive notes

    14–18 cm; 17–29 g. Medium-sized finch with conical bill, peaked hindcrown and broad white wingbars. Male nominate race has black forehead, slaty grey-blue crown... read more


    Song, by male only, mainly Mar to mid-Jul throughout most of range, a descending musical rattle of... read more


    Lowland and lower montane deciduous, mixed and conifer woods with slight preference for beech (... read more

    Food and feeding

    Diet the most varied in the family, mostly small invertebrates and their larvae, also seeds and buds. Animal items include springtails (... read more


    Season mid-Mar to mid-Jul; one brood, exceptionally two. Monogamous, exceptionally bigamous; pair-bond frequently maintained into... read more


    Resident, partially migratory and migratory. Breeders in N & NE of range move S and SW between... read more

    Status and conservation

    Not globally threatened. Common to locally abundant; scarce or uncommon in China; race spodiogenys uncommon or locally common in N Africa. Estimated European... read more

    Recommended citation

    Clement, P. (2020). Common Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs). In: del Hoyo, J., Elliott, A., Sargatal, J., Christie, D.A. & de Juana, E. (eds.). Handbook of the Birds of the World Alive. Lynx Edicions, Barcelona. (retrieved from on 25 February 2020).