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Northern Bullfinch Identification

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Old Saturday 16th October 2004, 10:18   #1
Andrew Whitehouse
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Northern Bullfinch Identification

I saw a couple of female Bullfinches on the way into work this morning and I have suspicions they might be of this subspecies. From what I know, Northerns are not safely identifiable in the field but I wondered if there were any features to look for that would at least indicate Northern. I've read that they're bigger and paler than British birds, but is there anything else?
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Old Saturday 16th October 2004, 12:59   #2
Adey Baker
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I notice that there were several reported from Shetland, yesterday
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Old Saturday 16th October 2004, 14:54   #3
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Just found out that the call is also totally different sounding more like a Trumpeter Finch!
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Old Saturday 16th October 2004, 18:58   #4
Andrew Whitehouse
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Thanks guys - didn't know about the call, although I didn't hear these birds unfortunately. I'm pretty sure they were Northerns, as they seemed pretty big (dwarfing an adjacent Robin). There's been a large influx in the last couple of days (I think over a hundred in Shetland) and there have been several other records in northeast Scotland too, so the circumstancial evidence is helpful. The two I saw were actually the first Bullfinches I've seen in Aberdeen since I moved here. In true 'tired migrant' style they were much more approachable than is usual for Bullfinch and were feeding quite voraciously on Rowan berries. So I think Northern is very probable, although it would be nice to know how I could ID them more conclusively.
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Old Saturday 16th October 2004, 19:05   #5
Jos Stratford
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehouse
There's been a large influx in the last couple of days (I think over a hundred in Shetland)
Bullfinches began to move through early this year, very much an Oct/Nov migrant on my local patch, but quite a lot in Sept this year ...maybe on their way to Aberdeen!
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Old Sunday 17th October 2004, 09:35   #6
Anthony Morton
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Siberian Bullfinches

I have seen a pair of what were described as Siberian Bullfinches. They were considerably larger than their British counterparts and I estimate them as being around twice the size at least. Although the Siberian female appeared to be the same colour as the British female, the Siberian male had an altogether paler rose-pink breast than the British male. This made him much less striking in appearance, so perhaps size isn't everything!

Can anyone tell me, please, if the Northern Bullfinch and the Siberian Bullfinch are perhaps one of the same, or are they separate sub-species?
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Old Sunday 17th October 2004, 17:06   #7
Andrew Whitehouse
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Hot off the presses, here are some rather indifferent pictures of another that I saw today in Bridge of Don (one of two). And this time we had some noise - a soft 'enk', rather like a flat trumpet.

Not sure about the Siberian Bullfinches, although they might be the same. The 'Northern Bullfinches' are reckoned to be of the nominate race, which is certainly found through Scandinavia. Not sure how far east they go.
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Old Sunday 17th October 2004, 17:10   #8
Jos Stratford
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehouse
Hot off the presses, here are some rather indifferent pictures of another that I saw today in Bridge of Don (one of two). And this time we had some noise - a soft 'enk', rather like a flat trumpet.
.

Looks just like the bullfinches I see up here :) Your description of call is also spot on, though soft it is quite audible at a far range and I hear them throughout my woodland
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Old Sunday 17th October 2004, 18:36   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tom mckinney
Just found out that the call is also totally different sounding more like a Trumpeter Finch!
The bird at Torness,Lothian yesterday was reported to be calling like a Trumpeter Finch.
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Old Sunday 17th October 2004, 18:39   #10
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3 reported at my patch today ( St Marys Island ) sadly one taken by a Sparrowhawk, feathers collected by some local birders might aid id.

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Old Wednesday 20th October 2004, 15:11   #11
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Phenomenal numbers in Shetland at the moment in flocks of up to 65!!

I would suggest any Bullfinches in odd places at the moment are Northern.

The birds here are calling a lot (unusually) and ut is a reedy 'peu', similar to the 'normal' Bullfinch call but quite distinct. The flocks almost sound like a flock of Wigeon (!!!).

Some more photos at www.nature.shetland.co.uk
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Old Wednesday 20th October 2004, 15:14   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Anthony Morton
Can anyone tell me, please, if the Northern Bullfinch and the Siberian Bullfinch are perhaps one of the same, or are they separate sub-species?
Looks like they're the same. Nominate pyrrhula (which is usually called Northern Bullfinch) breeds from Scandinavia to eastern Siberia, so Siberian Bullfinch would be an appropriate name.
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Old Wednesday 20th October 2004, 15:29   #13
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In the back of my mind I remember something about the extent of white up onto the back - more extensive in northern? Is that right?

BTW twice the size would really stand out, e.g. the size of a Collared Dove if we are talking length. I don't think the northern race is supposed to be that much bigger.
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Old Wednesday 20th October 2004, 16:06   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brianhstone
In the back of my mind I remember something about the extent of white up onto the back - more extensive in northern? Is that right?

BTW twice the size would really stand out, e.g. the size of a Collared Dove if we are talking length. I don't think the northern race is supposed to be that much bigger.
THis is what BWP says i.e. size is diagnostic (but we all know how difficult it can be to estimate in the field) and colour is also different but more subtle.

Taken from the BWP on CD-ROM: copyright Oxford University Press.

Northern and eastern Europe inhabited by nominate pyrrhula, with average wing length of male c. 925 (averages of various populations 915945, measurements of individuals mainly 8998). For each sex, virtually no overlap in measurements between nominate pyrrhula and smaller races.

Male pileata from Britain and Ireland about as dark above as europoea, but more diluted dull pink-red below; Female slightly darker and browner above, distinctly so below, especially on flank.

This means that male northern are brighter pink on the underparts and females are paler. No other plumage features are given.
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Old Wednesday 20th October 2004, 16:54   #15
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While we're on subspecies - here is the one from Japan which is very grey on the belly - Pyrrhula pyrrhula griseiventris
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Old Thursday 21st October 2004, 11:19   #16
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After seeing a Northern Bullfinch at spurn on the 17th October this year I decided to add the species to the bottom of my excel spreadsheet list of birds.

However I am a little confussed over the latin names.

According to the the BOU the Common Bullfinch's latin name is:
Pyrrhula pyrrhula

But after looking for the latin name of a Northern I came up with:
Pyrrhula pyrrhula pileata for British/resident Bullfinch
and
Pyrrhula pyrrhula pyrrhula for Northern Bullfinch

So the seemingly simple question is what are the correct full latin names?
Also, does the last part (third) of the name split the one species into two subspecies?
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Old Thursday 21st October 2004, 12:10   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by lee_adc
After seeing a Northern Bullfinch at spurn on the 17th October this year I decided to add the species to the bottom of my excel spreadsheet list of birds.

However I am a little confussed over the latin names.

According to the the BOU the Common Bullfinch's latin name is:
Pyrrhula pyrrhula

But after looking for the latin name of a Northern I came up with:
Pyrrhula pyrrhula pileata for British/resident Bullfinch
and
Pyrrhula pyrrhula pyrrhula for Northern Bullfinch

So the seemingly simple question is what are the correct full latin names?
Also, does the last part (third) of the name split the one species into two subspecies?
spot on Lee - third part of trinomial denotes subspecies. So P. p. pileata is the Brit form and P. p. pyrrhula is the Northern/Siberian form

if proposed as a possible full species second part is bracketed
Phylloscopus [collybita] tristis = 'Siberian' Chiffchaff

if fully accepted becomes Phylloscopus tristis = Siberian Chiffchaff

atb
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Old Thursday 21st October 2004, 12:17   #18
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Pileated Bullfinch

pileata means "capped" or something like that. Makes you wonder why that name was applied to the British subspecies, which appears no more capped than other races. Looking forward to calling it Pileated Bullfinch when the split comes
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Old Thursday 21st October 2004, 13:27   #19
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So why do the BOU just put Pyrrhula pyrrhula and not Pyrrhula pyrrhula pileata.

Is it because they don't recognise northern as a different subspecies or just because it is a subspecies! (hope that make sense)
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Old Thursday 21st October 2004, 13:54   #20
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Lee - I guess it's just because it's only a subspecies. Another point about the latin names is that Northern Bullfinch is what's called the 'nominate' race i.e. its subspecific name is the same as the species name (pyrrhula).

Mike - Thanks for all the additional info. I know what you mean about the reedy sound to the call.
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Old Saturday 23rd October 2004, 16:30   #21
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Andrew,

Yes they do sound distinctly different to Bullfinches down here, seen loads on Fair Isle over the last fortnight and was surprised the call was dstinctive as I didn't know that previously. I think I can honestly say I have had more Bullfinch bird days in the last week than the previous ten years (they are locally rare in this part of Lancs).

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Old Saturday 23rd October 2004, 17:54   #22
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Hi Stephen,

It's quite striking isn't it. I spoke to a ringer today who was very sceptical about all records of Northern Bullfinches around northeast Scotland, even when I mentioned the strange call. The four 'Northerns' I've seen are the only Bullfinches I've seen since moving to Aberdeen.
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Old Monday 25th October 2004, 11:17   #23
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Apparently Scandinavia too is seeing large numbers of big, oddly calling Bullfinchs at the moment. An origin further east then 'normal Northern Bullfinchs' has been postulated, so we may be seeing something special here.
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Old Monday 25th October 2004, 18:54   #24
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[quote=Andrew Whitehouse]

I spoke to a ringer today who was very sceptical about all records of Northern Bullfinches around northeast Scotland, even when I mentioned the strange call.

Is that because they have to catch them first before they can identify them.
I saw a superb male yesterday in Lothian, the second this autumn and the first records since 1921 in our Region clearly there has been a huge influx.
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Old Tuesday 26th October 2004, 11:23   #25
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When I have been looking on the net for Northern Bullfinch pictures and references, lots of people seem to be only happy to "accept" records of trapped/rung birds.
Does this mean that the "establishment" i.e. record comitties regards the identification of Northern as to difficult in the field as to be reliable.
Some birders seem happy to identify them in the field are they over confident? or is it just wishfull thinking?
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