Most of us associate brightly colored finches with warm climates, and indeed the vast majority of popular cage birds do hail from the tropical and sub-tropical regions. However, one of the most beautiful of all finches is native to temperate and downright cold areas of the world. Ranging across most of Europe and northern to central Asia, the Eurasian bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) bears plumage that compares favorably with any of its warm weather cousins.
With their huge bills, thick necks and stocky bodies, these hardy birds certainly are the “bulls” of the finch world, and appear larger than their 6 inches.
What has always struck me about them is the unique character of the color of the breast feathers – not purely red, orange, pink or tangerine, it is somehow a blend of each of these, a color unique onto itself. The breast color varies from bird to bird and is most intense in the males. It contrasts very sharply with the jet-black neck and head, and the grey back. A white rump patch and wing bar are visible during flight.
There are 6 other species in the genus, none common in the pet trade; the Cuban, Puerto Rican and Antillean bullfinches are not closely related to the European and Asian species.
Having evolved in cold habitats, the Eurasian bullfinch is quite hardy – captives have lived in excess of 17 years. Pairs establish close bonds sometimes, possibly, for life, and may breed in large indoor flight cages or outdoor aviaries. Due to their thickset bodies, bullfinches may also be housed in most parrot cages, an option that allows us to provide ample room for pairs kept indoors.
Although their thick bills might seem to indicate a seed-based diet, bullfinches are somewhat unique in feeding heavily upon the buds of trees and shrubs. Successful breeders usually include buds in their diet, along with some insects and a wide variety of small parrot type seeds and pellets. Egg food, hard-boiled eggs and live or canned insects should also be provided (it is very difficult to raise chicks without a steady supply of insects).
Eurasian bullfinches are more popular among European than American aviculturists, but really are worth searching for.
An interesting research paper on bullfinch conservation is posted at