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Sadly, now an uncommon sight anywhere in the Dorset countryside

Photograph by: 
Peter Orchard

I am not sure the bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) was ever 'common' however it was once seen far more often than it is now; it is yet another farmland associated bird that is declining in numbers. I say farmland bird but that is not entirely accurate, it is more associated with orchards where it has been seen as a pest as it loves to eat the buds on fruit trees in spring. It is actually more likely to be seen in shrubby areas and thickets in wooded areas as well as thick hedges where it feeds on seeds, emerging buds and insects. Although not thought of as a migrant species numbers in Dorset are far greater in winter then they are in summer, it is a fairly scarce breeding bird here.

The weekly reporting chart shows only very few records of bullfinch during the summer months, from week 16 at the end of April until week 39 in late September. During the autumn numbers rise and stay at a fairly consistent level until the spring. That would suggest that those birds that are spending the winter in Dorset are fairly sedentary and likely to stay in a place that is favourable for them.

The distribution chart seems to bear this out with three sites, Hengistbury, Durlston and Sunnyside seemingly reporting far higher numbers than elsewhere and this is down to the same birds being reported on a regular basis as they stay in a place they like. Elsewhere lower levels of reports are scattered over nearly fifty sites which possibly shows other birds being more mobile and moving through Dorset on their way further south. These reporting sites are widely spread across the county with no real marked preference for a particular area or habitat although the Poole basin does possibly seem to be favoured to a certain extent but this may be due to the coverage the area receives rather than habitat preference.

In my experience the bullfinch is likely to be a chance sighting rather than a predictable sighting and adding the bullfinch to your Dorset list will be more by luck than by judgement but it should only be a matter of time before you encounter one.



Common Name Bullfinch
Scientific Name Pyrrhula pyrrhula
Species Group Birds Finches and Buntings
Status Occasional
Interest Level
  • 01 - January
  • 02 - February
  • 03 - March
  • 04 - April
  • 05 - May
  • 06 - June
  • 07 - July
  • 08 - August
  • 09 - September
  • 10 - October
  • 11 - November
  • 12 - December
Look for

The bright black, white and red colouration

Identification Notes
  • Now seen less often but numbers are often swelled in autumn by immigrants from Europe
  • Associated with fruit trees in spring where they eat flower buds!
  • Have a gentle, whistling 'tweep-tweep, call
Primary Habitat
Preferred Environment
Look for
Additional Identification Notes
Similar Species

The records for this species have been organised into reports, charts, maps and photos. Click a pic below to see the detail:

Notebook Distribution Map Sites List Some Charts Some Photographs Recent Records Guidance Notes

To see related species click here: 

Birds Finches and Buntings