Saturday, 11 February 2017

Spain 20: Hawfinch

In the UK the Hawfinch Coccothraustes coccothraustes is an extremely scarce and hard to see species, with a breeding population of under 1000 pairs. Across Europe it is doing much better and is consequently classed as Least Concern by the IUCN. Its range extends from Eastern Europe across temperate forests as far as eastern Asia and northern Japan. It is closely related to two American species, the Evening and Hooded Grosbeaks which have rather similar ecological requirements. Slightly more distantly related are other grosbeaks found in east Asia and the Himalayas.

The giant bills of Hawfinches give a clue to their preferred diet. They are specialists in large, tough seeds such as the stones of wild cherry or plum, which they can easily crack open. In Spain they doubtless also feed on olives and when we found them at the Monasterio de Piedra they were feeding in the Hackberry trees.

Hawfinch on sunflower seedhead
Hawfinches are birds of mature woodland and require large areas with a diverse set of tree species in order to ensure that sufficient food is available during the breeding season. In the UK radio transmitter studies have shown females foraging up to 5km away from the nest during the breeding season. They spend most of their time up in the canopy and are rather unobtrusive at the best of times – even the song is quiet. Outside the breeding season they may form small flocks and may come to the ground more to glean seeds from the leaf litter.
Hawfinch nest
The breeding season extends from March to August, with both parents taking part in nest construction. Clutch size is usually 3-5 eggs, sometimes more, and the eggs are incubated by the female for 11-13 days. It takes 30 days for the chicks to fledge, quite a long time for a finch, and the young are raised mainly on caterpillars and other soft bodied insects, supplemented by unripe seeds.
Hawfinch with newly fledged young

Finally, here is a link to a video of Hawfinches on Youtube:

Images from wikipedia

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