Bullfinch Male vs Female – What is the Difference?

It may come as a surprise to you but the male and female bullfinch don’t look the same. While the plumage of the male bullfinch is uniquely colored, the female bullfinch can easily be mistaken for other finches such as the Chaffinch.

In this article, I will highlight the differences between a male and a female bullfinch, helping you to easily tell them apart.

Difference Between Male and Female Bullfinch

Beyond the physical differences that I’m going to highlight between the two, I’ll also discuss how the female and the male bullfinch are different in their parental roles.

– Plumage and Coloration

Looking at a female bullfinch side-by-side with a male bullfinch, the differences are immediately observable – the male bullfinch has a far more colorful appearance than the female bullfinch.

The male bullfinch is easily identifiable because of the pink-orange neck, breast, and flanks. The black cap that extends around the bill and eyes is another iconic feature for this bird.

The plumage on the back of the male bird is gray, while the wings and tail are black with gray markings. The white rump is visible mostly in flight.

The female bullfinch also has a black cap, a white rump and black wings and tail. However, the underpants of the female bullfinch are a pinkish-gray instead of the bright orange-pink color we can spot on the male bullfinch.

Another difference between the male and female bullfinch is the coloration of the back of the neck, which on the female is a gray-brown with a yellowish-brown mantle.

Juvenile male bullfinches are also similar to female bullfinches, except they feature a brown head and mantle.

– Body Shape and Size

Both the female and the male bullfinch have a compact, stocky build that’s similar to the shape of a bull’s head.

Despite its plump appearance the Bullfinch is around the size of a House sparrow. Its length is around 8.6-10 inches and weighs around 0.7 to 0.9 ounces.

– Calls and Songs

Bullfinches have a soft, melancholic call that’s a soft and weak ‘pew-pew’ or ‘teu-teu’. It sounds like the soft sound baby chicks make when they’re eating. The melody has a descending tendency.

Because of their soft whistle, you won’t be able to hear the sound Bullfinches make, unless you’re at close range.

– Nesting and Parenting

When it comes to nesting and parenting, the female bullfinch takes the lead in building the nest. The male bullfinch will typically choose the nesting site in the thick of a tall bush, hedge or a conifer tree.

The female will gather the materials for the nest and will build the nest herself from twigs, soft roots, moss, lichen, and even animal hair.

The female will usually lay 4-6 pale blue eggs, mottled with red brown. Then the female bullfinch proceeds to incubate the eggs. After an incubation period of 12-14 days, the eggs will hatch. Fledgling typically occurs after 16 to 18 days.

During the incubation period the male bullfinch will help the female by feeding her. Baby bullfinches are fed by both the male and the female bullfinch.

The breeding season for bullfinches starts from early May and lasts until mid-July. During this period, bullfinches will typically raise two broods, but some pairs will raise as many as three broods per season.

– Behavior

Bullfinches are shy birds that keep to themselves. During the breeding season Bullfinches can form flocks of around 50 birds.

Outside of the breeding season, they’re rarely seen in flocks, and even though they crave company, you’ll usually spot them feeding in pairs or as a small family group.

The balance of the power dynamic between the female and male bullfinch tilts in the favor of the female. Usually, the male bullfinch is relegated to doing the female’s bidding most of the year.

Females will often chase away the more colorful males from feeding sites, claiming precedence over male bullfinches.

Neither female nor male bullfinches venture to feed at busy feeding stations. They’ll usually wait for the other birds to leave before they approach a feeding table or bird feeder.

Their shy nature makes them a rare appearance in gardens or parks, preferring the wilderness over sites inhabited by humans.

Do Male and Female Bullfinches Mate for Life?

After some debate and uncertainty over this issue, research has finally confirmed that male and female bullfinches do mate for life. They form lasting bonds that span over several breeding seasons.

For bullfinches, however, keeping the same partner throughout their lives doesn’t stem from any romantic notion related to finding a partner.

Simply, it’s a way to conserve energy and focus on procreation. If anything, bullfinches have a pragmatic take on their relationships.

With less time and energy spent on courtship and related activities, bullfinches can undertake the raising of as many as three broods per season.

Having a partner early in the breeding season, allows them to start breeding sooner, which makes the breeding season last longer.

Male bullfinches are also spared wasting efforts on mating rituals that might end in a rejection.

It’s not all pragmatism, however. The desire in bullfinches for company and for forming lasting bonds is so strong that even captive-raised bullfinches need company and cannot be kept on their own.


Male and female bullfinches are different not only when it comes to the color of their plumage but also when it comes to their parenting roles and behavior.

While the male bullfinch is easy to identify after its thick beak, black cap, and orange-pink plumage, the female bullfinch as well as juvenile bullfinches can be easily mistaken for other birds such as the Chaffinch.

However, even when comparing the female Bullfinch to the Chaffinch one look at the beak will tell you which bird you’re looking at.

If the beak is pointy, longer and narrow, you’re probably looking at a Chaffinch. If the bird is also missing the black cap, you’re definitely not spotting a bullfinch.

Apart from the distinction related to plumage color, male and female bullfinches are similar in size, weight and their calls.

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