The Hawfinch, scientifically known as Coccothraustes coccothraustes, is a striking and enigmatic bird species that belongs to the finch family, Fringillidae. Renowned for its robust beak and secretive nature, the Hawfinch is widely recognized as one of the largest finch species found in Europe and parts of Asia.
The Hawfinch is a timid and elusive bird that can be challenging to spot. It possesses short legs, a compact tail, a robust neck, and a disproportionately large head. Its most distinctive feature is its powerful beak, which is thick and sturdy, enabling it to crack open tough cherry pits. The bird’s eyes are brown and encircled by a black orbital ring. The majority of its plumage is light brown, while its wings display a captivating combination of colors, including a dark black stripe, a white stripe, and a blue stripe.
Hawfinches typically have a length ranging from 16 to 18 cm and can weigh up to 72 grams, although these measurements can vary depending on the specific subspecies. Currently, there are six recognized subspecies of Hawfinch. In terms of size, a Hawfinch is generally 3 to 5 times larger than a canary or a European goldfinch. This size difference can be visually striking, showcasing the relatively larger and more robust build of the Hawfinch compared to other finch species:
Sexing the Hawfinch
Male and female Hawfinches share a similar appearance, but there are distinguishing characteristics. The male can be identified by the amber color on its head, which falls between yellow and orange hues. This amber color is prominently displayed on the male’s head dome. Conversely, the female exhibits a head dome that tends to be more brownish, encompassing a larger portion of its body.
Furthermore, the male’s brown plumage appears darker compared to that of the female. Another distinguishing feature is the color of the wing feathers. The male possesses glossy black wing feathers, while the female’s wing feathers exhibit an ash-grey tone.
Hawfinches are widely distributed across Europe, with their range extending to East Asia (China, Japan, and Korea), West Asia (Iran, Afghanistan, and Turkistan), and North Africa (Morocco, Tunisia, and Algeria). While they can be observed in Palestine, they are migratory birds and visit the country during the winter season. They arrive with the onset of autumn and stay temporarily until the end of winter, departing as spring approaches.
Breeding and Nesting
The breeding season of the Hawfinch typically begins in March as spring arrives, although the timing can vary depending on the temperature in its geographic region. In places like Britain, for instance, the season starts later, in late May. Hawfinches usually choose habitats such as forests, gardens, reserves, or areas with an abundance of tall trees, particularly oak, beech, and hornbeam trees.
Hawfinches construct their nests on high branches, where they lay a clutch of 2 to 7 eggs, although typically they lay around 4 to 5 eggs. The parents raise only one brood, and the male does not engage in multiple mating with different females. It is probable that the female remains with the male for more than one breeding season.
- Number of eggs: 4-5 eggs
- Incubation period: 11-13 days
- Fledging period: 12-13 days
The diet of the Hawfinch primarily consists of seeds, especially hard seeds, and fruits. Its robust beak is perfectly adapted for cracking open the tough exteriors of various types of seeds, allowing it to access the nutritious contents inside. Some of the preferred food sources for Hawfinches include olive, cherry, and plum pits, and other similar fruits with hard shells.
In addition to seeds and fruits, the Hawfinch may also consume buds, mollusks, caterpillars, and small insects during the breeding season to supplement its diet. However, seeds and fruits remain the primary and most significant components of its food intake throughout the year.