What a dapper fellow this male Bullfinch is, with his apricot-coloured waistcoat, grey jacket, black bowler and tails! The female, shown below, is elegant in a more understated way (I’ve yet to get good close photos of her).
Sadly, despite its good looks, the Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) has been much persecuted by humans due to its preference for devouring the buds of trees, particularly tasty fruit trees, in the springtime. According to Buczacki’s Fauna Britannica, ‘As long ago as 1566, an Act of Parliament allowed for one penny to be offered for “everie Bulfynche or other Byrde that devoureth that blowth of Fruite”.’ And according to the BTO website, the number of wild birds was further depleted in Victorian times because people preferred to admire the Bulfinch’s gorgeous plumage in cages rather than in woodlands.
However, these factors are not the reason for the bird’s declining numbers – there was a sharp decline in the late 1970s, which has upturned slightly since 2000, but is still 36% lower than in 1967. That decline is thought to be a result of decreasing biodiversity in woodlands and of the negative effects of agricultural intensification. I haven’t been able to find any more recent population figures but let’s hope the Bullfinch recovers. What a loss that apricot waistcoat would be!