What do Bullfinches Eat?

Whether you’re looking to attract bullfinches to your backyard or orchard, or you’re simply satisfying your curiosity, in this article I will give you a thorough overview of what bullfinches eat.

With a bulky build and colorful plumage, bullfinches can be found throughout Europe and temperate Asia. They prefer mixed woodlands for breeding, and they can be spotted in orchards, although they will generally stay away from densely populated areas.

Bullfinches have an appetite for seeds and tree buds, which is why an orchard can be a prime location for you to spot them. It’s also why in some areas they’re considered a pest.

The diet of bullfinches is overwhelmingly herbivorous, with the bullfinch feeding insects only to their young.

I’m going to detail the type of foods bullfinches eat along with which foods they prefer when they are most likely to actively search for food, and what foods you can use to lure bullheads to your backyard.

What Type of Food Do Bullfinches Eat?

When bullfinches are out feeding, you’ll see them perched on top of trees feeding on fresh tree buds, shoots, and the seed of fleshy fruits.

As I mentioned, bullfinches can be described as mainly herbivores, eating insects only by accident or when feeding their young. Because insects are rich in protein, it helps juvenile bullfinches develop more rapidly.

The feeding habits of bullfinches depend on habitat and availability as well as the season. In spring, bullfinches seem to be partial to buds.

In early summer, during the breeding season, bullfinches will invariably eat insects and hunt for insects to feed their young. While in the fall, bullfinches will enjoy ripened berries, in the rest of the year, they’ll feed on various seeds.

There isn’t a clear delineation of these feeding habits as the bullfinch may feed on all these in a single day if they’re available.

How Much Food Do Bullfinches Eat?

Because of their shyness and generally unobstructed nature, we don’t have that much data on how much food bullfinches eat.

What we do know is that they’re voracious eaters of tree buds and can inflict some serious damage on orchards if they find their way into one.

Because of their appetite for tree buds, they were once classified as a ‘pest’ of fruit crops. During the breeding season, you may see larger flocks, but they usually feed in pairs or smaller groups.

If you have fruit bushes and bullfinches in your area, you may want to consider erecting a net around your fruit bushes.

Because they also like to eat seeds of fleshy fruit, they’ll not only damage buds but also ripened fruits.

What Time of Day Do Bullfinches Eat?

Bullfinches are diurnal birds, which means they’re active during the daytime and rest during the night. Bullfinches rise at dawn and engage in various activities from foraging for food to courtship and breeding.

There isn’t a particular time of day at which bullfinches eat as they have been noticed to eat throughout the day, depending on food availability in their area.

Because of their preference for dense woodlands and thick undergrowth, they’re rarely seen in gardens, although they will sometimes visit rural gardens that are bordered with thick hedgerows or fruit trees.

Therefore, bullfinches carry out all their normal activities during the daytime, including eating or hunting for insects to feed their young.

Where Do Bullfinches Find Their Food?

Bullfinches will forage for food in their preferred habitat, namely woodlands and their thick understory.

They prefer buds of trees and shrubs, and they have a particular interest in fruiting trees and shrubs. They consume the part that contains the embryonic flower, discarding the scales.

Bullfinches will be seen feeding on hawthorns, blackthorns, gooseberries, buds of plum and apple trees. Blackberries, and raspberries are also enjoyed for their fleshy seeds.

They will eat the seeds of dandelion plants in all stages of ripeness. Bullfinches will consume violet seeds, thistle, and even nettle seeds.

Other than these, bullfinches will seek out birch seeds, sycamore, and ash trees for seeds.

What Do Baby Bullfinches Eat?

During the breeding season, bullfinches will also hunt for insects that they’ll feed to their young. Baby bullfinches receive a diet high in protein to speed up their development.

Bullfinches will either pick off insects from the foliage of trees they visit, catch them like flycatchers, or visit insect-infested shrubs and trees, for example those infested with aphids.

Bullfinches have even been noted to pick off insects from spider webs.

Other than this period when they feed their young, bullfinches don’t seek out insects, but will invariably ingest insects if they’re inside tree buds, for example.

What do Bullfinches Eat in Winter?

In winter, bullfinches will seek out any seeds they can find. They might even seek out seed-bearing weeds, will feed on nettle seeds, birch, rowan, dock, ash, bramble, and heather seeds.

Ash is one of their most preferred sources of winter food. Other than that, they’ll also seek out dormant buds of trees and shrubs.

They enjoy hawthorn, blackthorn, crab apple, and also cultivated apple and pear trees. Because of their foray into these areas of cultivated fruit trees, they’re often perceived as destructive.

Although you might set out feeders in your garden during the winter, bullfinches aren’t as likely to visit as other birds.

I will give you some tips, however, on the types of seeds that you can place in bird feeders to increase the probability of bullfinches visiting your backyard.

Do Bullfinches Eat Fruits?

Bullfinches will eat some types of fruit, but not others. They prefer seedy, fleshy fruit or berries such as blackberry, raspberry, privet berries, rowan, haws berries, Hawthorn, Guelder rose berries, and more.

It’s unclear whether Bullfinches seek these out for their seeds or the flesh, but it might be that they enjoy both the seeds and the flesh of these berries.

Some berries are eaten in all stages of ripeness, while other berries like the Guelder rose are consumed when they’re overripe.

Bullfinches don’t typically eat fruits other than berries. Yet they will seek out the buds and shoots of fruit trees.

What do Baby Bullfinches Eat?

Adult bullfinches will feed baby bullfinches insects and invertebrates that are rich in protein. Bullfinches will actively search for insects in the foliage of trees and shrubs, often catching insects like flycatchers, or picking off insects from spider webs.

As juveniles, bullfinches will diversify their diets and seek out buds of fruiting trees and shrubs, seedy fruits, and berries.

What Food Attracts Bullfinches in Your Backyard?

If you have a property near the woods or bordered with thick hedgerows or various shrubs, you may be fortunate enough to have bullfinches visiting your garden or backyard.

You can even go the extra mile and place out suet blocks, bird feeders, or a feeding table. Here are some of the goodies you can use to lure bullfinches to your garden:

  • Sunflower seeds or shelled hearts
  • Seed mixes
  • Diced nuts, fruit, oats if you’re making your own suet blocks

Having fruit trees in your garden, berry shrubs and various other trees that can provide bullfinches with a source of food can also attract them.

Bullfinches are shy and they will usually wait for the coast to clear before they come to feed. Don’t expect bullfinches, if your garden is busy with other birds or other birds will often come in large groups to feed at feeding tables.

What do Bullfinches Drink?

As many other birds, Bullfinches drink water. They’ll often drink water droplets from tree leaves but also seek out pools and springs that are hidden by bushes.

They’ll often perch on fallen leaves or sticks in pools of water and drink from there. When water is not available or when the available water may not be deemed good enough by them, they’ll even fly for water for as much as half a mile.

Just as they’re not a regular at feeding stations, your birdbath may also go unused by Bullfinches.

But I have heard people spotting Bullfinches in their gardens drinking water from birdbaths. So, it’s not impossible for you to one day witness the same in your garden.

In any event, it doesn’t hurt to try these tricks, especially if you’re an avid bird lover. Who knows? Maybe bullfinches will sample the food you put out for them and enjoy a refreshing drink from your birdbath.


As you can see, bullfinches have a varied diet, with buds of trees and shrubs making up a large portion of their food in spring.

They’ll also eat dormant tree buds in winter. Berries and seeds are also important sources of food for bullfinches, while baby bullfinches are fed insects and invertebrates.

Bullfinches are diurnal animals, feeding and engaging in other activities during the daytime. At night, bullfinches rest, resuming their activities at dawn the following day.

As shy and unobtrusive birds, they’ll usually stay away from gardens and parks. They don’t often visit feeding stations, but they can be lured to your backyard.

If your garden is close to woodlands, or if you have trees and shrubs that may be of interest to them, they’ll surely visit your property.

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