Britain is lucky enough to have a wide range of different birds frequenting its gardens and other open spaces, but among those people seem to most enjoy seeing are the finches.
This is perhaps not surprising, as they are attractive little birds with notched tails and often brightly coloured plumage. Some of the finches are common in the UK, while others are much rarer and so a real treat to spot from your window.
Types of finch you might see
There are quite a few finches that you might be familiar with, including the Bullfinch - with the males displaying a wonderful pinky-red breast and black cap - and the Chaffinch, the most common and widespread member of the finch family.
Other species include the Goldfinch, Greenfinch and Siskin, all of which are yellow-green in colour and highly entertaining to watch and listen to.
A decline in finch numbers?
If you spotted our recent coverage of the British Trust for Ornithology and RSPB Garden BirdWatch, then you may have noticed that this year's figures suggested a decline in finch populations across Britain.
Indeed, there was a particularly low number of Siskins and Greenfinches, with the RSPB suggesting populations of the latter have experienced a 53 per cent long-term decline since 1979. Chaffinches and Goldfinches were also less frequently spotted by volunteers.
This might seem serious, but circumstances are actually less dire than they seem for these birds. Indeed, experts pointed out that the relatively mild winter and higher-than-usual supplies of naturally occurring foodstuffs (such as the Sitka Spruce for the Siskin) meant they didn't need to seek food and shelter in our gardens quite as much as usual.
How to help the finches in your garden
However, that doesn't mean that finches should be ignored in favour of other types of bird - they still need your help, particularly since we don't yet know what weather this year will bring.
With finches typically visiting gardens in high numbers in late April, now could be the time to ensure your green space is favourable for them - here's how.
Provide a good food supply
Finches are seed eaters, which means they can be quite vulnerable to local food shortages in the natural environment. This doesn't have to mean shortages due to poor weather; it can be caused by anything from competition for a particular foodstuff to mowing of fields and verges that depletes a particular crop of seeds.
This is why supplementary feeding can be very helpful. If you want to feed the finches you've seen, only use seed from accredited sources such as CJ Wildlife to ensure quality.
Our Nyjer Seed is rich in oil and highly beneficial for finches such as the Goldfinch. It can be fed from one of our specialist Nyjer feeders, with a feeder tray underneath to encourage birds that prefer to eat from a flat tray.
Supply fresh water
Since seeds are quite dry and finches tend to visit during the warmer months, it's important to provide a supply of fresh, clean water for the birds to drink.
Look for a bath or hanging dish that has sloping sides and a rough surface for grip, and put it at least two metres from cover to prevent predation.
In the winter, you can keep the birds visiting you by ensuring the surface is free of ice.
Maintain high levels of hygiene
It's always important to keep on top of hygiene when you have feeders in order to prevent germs breeding. Fortunately, there are some really easy ways you can do this. Firstly, clean and disinfect your feeding stations on a regular basis, using bottle brushes to get into the corners and ensuring any residues of soap are washed away afterwards.
Secondly, refill drinking water daily and ensure you dry it after emptying the dish, as this will kill any bacteria.
It's also important, as we have mentioned, to buy your seed from reputable sources so you know it offers maximum health benefits.
With the help of this advice, you should hopefully be spotting finches in your garden in their droves this spring - and beyond.