How Long Do Bullfinches Live?

As one of the largest finches, iconic for its colorful plumage, bullfinches don’t have a typically long lifespan, especially when compared to the lifespan of other finches.

Finches commonly live 5 to 10 years, although some finches can live as much as 15 to 20 years. But how about bullfinches? How long do bullfinches live? And what factors influence their lifespan?

What Is the Typical Lifespan of a Bullfinch?

The typical lifespan of a bullfinch in around 2 years. In optimal conditions, bullfinches may live for up to 12 years.

Bullfinches are native to most of Europe and temperate parts of Asia. While in warmer regions they usually stay put throughout the year, in areas where winters get harsh (e.g., Northern Europe), bullfinches will migrate to Central or Southern Europe.

The lifespan of a bullfinch can be influenced by a number of factors, including environmental. Environmental factors along with food availability and exposure to various diseases can all shorten the lifespan of bullfinches.

Below, I consider the most pressing factors that can shorten the lifespan of a bullfinch and offer tips on what you can do to prolong the lifespan of bullfinches.

How Do Environmental Factors Affect Bullfinch Lifespan?

From extreme weather conditions to loss of habitat, there are several environmental factors that can spell trouble for the lifespan of bullfinches.

Here are the most common reasons why the lifespan of a bullfinch can be cut short:

– Loss of habitat

Bullfinches live in dense, mixed woodland with a thick understory. Hedgerows on farmlands are also a spot enjoyed by these birds, especially for nesting.

The rooting out of hedgerows on farmlands and the intensification of farming have also contributed to a decline in the bullfinch population.

Loss of these habitats can cause not only a decline in the bullfinch population, but it can also shorten the lifespan of bullfinches due to a loss of important food sources such as buds, seeds and fruits.

– Food availability

Loss of habitat can cause food scarcity. Bullfinches rely on buds, fresh shoots, seed and berries for sustenance. Food scarcity can shorten the lifespan of bullfinches.

Even spending more time looking for food, leaves these birds exposed to predators, which also affects how long bullfinches live.

– Extreme weather conditions

Extreme weather conditions can also cause a decline in the bullfinch population or shorten the lifespan of those bullfinches that survive extreme weather conditions.

Cold weather can cause bullfinches to migrate to areas where food may not be as abundant, or forest fires can cause a decline in trees and shrubs that act as a food source for bullfinches.

Even the stress related to extreme weather conditions and being displaced from their natural habitat can shorten the lifespan of bullfinches.

– Predators

Beyond the factors related to the environment and food scarcity, bullfinches are also vulnerable to avian predators such as raptors and corvids.

These are just some of the most prominent environmental factors that affect the lifespan of bullfinches. And they’re all interconnected, creating a ripple-effect that leads to an early death for bullfinches.

Changes in the climate can also give rise to geographical displacement and exposure to different diseases that can affect bullfinches.

How Does the Bullfinch’s Diet Affect Its Lifespan?

Bullfinches have a varied diet that consists mainly of the buds and seeds of various fruit trees and shrubs.

Bullfinches that inhabit deciduous woodlands, will feed on the seeds of ash, birch, and sycamore.

When buds of fruit trees are not available – that happens when summer or fall comes along – bullfinches will eat fleshy, seedy berries and fruit such as blackberry, raspberry, privet berries, rowan, haws berries, Hawthorn, Guelder rose berries, and more

In winter, bullfinches will feed on the seeds of nettle, birch, rowan, dock, ash, bramble, and heather seeds.

Any disruptions due to intensified farming or rooting out fruit-bearing shrubs can reduce the availability of food sources for bullfinches, which can shorten their lifespan.

Unlike other finches that may eat insects as well, the bullfinch will only accidentally eat them when feeding their young.

Therefore, not being an omnivorous bird species can also limit the options of bullfinches when there are disruptions in some of their preferred sources of food.

Health Problems That Can Shorten a Bullfinch’s Life

Bullfinches can be affected by several diseases that can shorten their lifespan including fungal, parasitic, viral, and bacterial infections.

Here are just some of the health problems faced by bullfinches:

  • Pseudotuberculosis is a bacterial infection contracted by these birds during winter. Treatment involves the use of antibiotics.
  • Aspergillosis is a fungal infection that affects bullfinches with an already compromised immune system. Systemic or localized antifungal treatment can help.
  • Atoxoplasma is a protozoal infection caused by a parasite. It especially affects juvenile bullfinches and can be fatal to them. Treatment involves adding Sulphachlor-pyrazin to the water of bullfinches.
  • Other viruses and bacterial infections can also shorten the lifespan of bullfinches.

For bullfinches raised in captivity, treatment options are available and many of these diseases can be prevented through exemplary hygiene, health monitoring, offering ample cage space, and isolating sick bullfinches from healthy individuals.

How to Prolong a Bullfinch’s Life?

It’s easier to prolong the lifespan of bullfinches born and raised in captivity since they have access to health monitoring and veterinary treatment.

The task is more difficult when it comes to bullfinches in the wild. However, habitat restoration is an important part of ensuring that the decline of the population is halted.

For example, the Azores bullfinch has been successfully recovered due to an ample EU-funded project that focused on the removal of alien species and the establishment of over 65,000 native plants and the establishment of fruit tree orchards.

Similar efforts can not only help restore dwindling bird populations but can also help prolong the lifespan of these birds.


In the United Kingdom, bullfinches are currently listed as an ‘amber’ species of conservation concern due to a 36% decline in the breeding population.

Bullfinches are not only becoming endangered in certain parts of Europe, their lifespans are also decreasing. Currently, the average lifespan of a bullfinch is around 2 years.

Because there are a number of contributing factors, several conservation efforts are needed to address the issue.

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