The nature of things
Linnet and redpoll
THAT chatty and tuneful little finch, whose chest is softly smudged with a rosy-crimson waistcoat, is most likely a male linnet in his breeding plumage. Formerly abundant almost everywhere (and, in olden days, a popular caged bird), their UK population has fallen steeply since the 1970s, since widespread use of herbicides on crop weeds and autumn crop sowings have reduced their survival opportunities. Some help has been at hand, however, as linnets have found a lifeline in bird feeders and nyjer seeds.
Nesting is usually low down, among protective gorses, brambles, ivy or other shrubby material, where the nest of tightly woven grass and twigs nurtures a clutch of light-blue eggs with reddish speckles. (The country names of gorse thatcher and furze linnet refer to the bird’s residential preferences.)
Linnets (top right, bottom right) and redpolls can be very difficult to tell apart, both having seasonal dabs of crimson on their foreheads and chests; often, however, it will be easiest to consider their location and time of year. ‘Lesser’ redpolls (top left, bottom left) spend much of their time up in the trees— especially liking birch and alder—and are more prevalent in the North, Scotland and Wales; the slightly larger ‘common’ redpolls are chiefly winter visitors and actually quite scarce. KBH