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Chaffinch vs Bullfinch: 5 Key Differences Between Them

Written by Garrett Hayes

Last updated on Apr 26th, 2024
Bullfinch vs Chaffinch

t's always wise to have an image of each species beside you as you compare two avians, such as the finches we'll discuss below.

So, now…

Do you have some pictures to help you through the chaffinch vs bullfinch debate?

You'll need them because body shape and plumage color are two characteristics that'll help us differentiate this finch family. These two are almost similar in size and plumages. For instance, a female chaffinch looks like a juvenile bullfinch.

Main Differences Between Bullfinch Vs Chaffinch


The main differences between chaffinch vs. bullfinch are:

  • A chaffinch is about 5.7 inches long from bill to tail, whereas a Eurasian bullfinch can grow between 5.7 and 6.5 inches long.
  • A chaffinch weighs up to 1 oz, whereas a bullfinch weighs less than 0.9 ounces.
  • A common chaffinch has a wingspan of 10 to 11 inches, whereas a bullfinch measures 8.6 to 10.2 inches long from wing to wing.
  • A male chaffinch has a blue-gray crown, whereas a male bullfinch flaunts a black cap.
  • A chaffinch's binomial name is Fringilla coelebs, whereas a bullfinch is called Pyrrhula pyrrhula.

Bullfinch Vs Chaffinch: Facts About Their Physical Characteristics & Behavior

John James Audubon is one birding enthusiast who can help us differentiate between a chaffinch and a Eurasian bullfinch. He has so many illustrations of world finches, and the one we're talking about features a chaffinch, greenfinch, and bullfinch. If you ever have doubts about the finch you're looking at, search for his image online for clarity.

Here are other features to help you note the difference between a chaffinch and a bullfinch:

1. Bird Classification

The order and family can help you group birds based on the physical characteristics adapted to their environment. For instance, the birds we're talking about here are passerines in the Passeriformes order. Their toes help them perch on trees.

They're also in the same family called Fringillidae, but that's as far as it goes because they belong to different subfamilies. You see, Fringillidae has three subfamilies that are Carduelinae, Euphoniinae, and Fringillinae. Chaffinches are in the Fringillinae subfamily, while bullfinches are in the Carduelinae. 

Another classification difference is that the Eurasian bullfinch belongs to the genus Pyrrhula with other finches like the endangered Azores bullfinch. A common chaffinch, however, is in the genus Fringilla. That's the same genus as the brambling.

The two British finches we're talking about in this article are different when you compare their subspecies.

It makes birding to see them adventurous. For instance, you'll need a trip to various continents to see all the ten subspecies of the Eurasian bullfinch, as there are some in Japan, Iran, Europe, and China.

Searching for the subgroups of the common chaffinch will also have you touring various birding paradises such as the Canary Islands, North Africa, Greece, and Cyprus. 

2. Breeding & Nesting

Let's take the bullfinch or chaffinch discussion into the breeding habits of these two avians. 

First, a bullfinch builds a nest in diverse habitats, from bushes to mature scrubs. 

The nest sits up to seven feet from the ground. Its clutch is quite large, as it can lay four to seven bluish eggs. On the other hand, when you peep into the cup-shaped nest of a Fringilla coelebs (chaffinch), you'll find four to five eggs with purplish-brown streaks or spots and varied egg colors, from bluish-green to light red eggs.

3. Plumage & Body Size

First, these two birds have different body weights. The chaffinch is heavier by a few ounces and has a longer wingspan, but the Eurasian bullfinch is longer from beak to tail.

When it comes to plumages, the male bullfinch is more colorful than the Fringilla coelebs.

Knowing this alone won't help you ID these birds unless we tell their actual colors. On that note, a male bullfinch has a black cap and pinkish-red underbelly. 

Further, a white rump and black wings are visible as it flies. The female flaunts a grey-pink underside though duller than a male's.

Over now to the other small passerine bird, the chaffinch. The male avians have blue-grey caps, unlike the black crowns of male bullfinches. The female birds have olive-brownish backs and gray-white underbellies.

There are plumage differences among subgroups of both finches. For example, the male chaffinches in North Africa have an olive-green lower mantle, while males in Cyprus have brownish plumage. Another difference that you should look out for is the bill shape.

A bullfinch has a broader, round one, while a chaffinch has a grey, conical, pointed beak-like an American goldfinch.

4. Diet & Habitat

First, both birds visit backyards and eat seeds and insects. 

For the chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs), a summer diet has insects, and winter is time to gather nuts and fruits. For the Pyrrhula pyrrhula (bullfinch), seeds are an excellent choice in summer and winter, while tree buds, shoots, and flowers are ideal in spring. It can leave a lot of damage in an orchard or small backyard garden as it eats developing buds.

A chaffinch is comfortable foraging fallen seeds under bird tables but can also pick seeds from bird feeders. 

The UK population of chaffinches is higher than that of bullfinches even though they're both resident birds.

Therefore, you're likely to see the chaffinches more often. They live in the same habitat as bullfinches, such as wooded areas and backyards.

5. Song

As you tour wildlife parks, woodlands, and gardens in the UK, listen to bird songs. If you hear a  teu-teu song, there's a bullfinch nearby. However, if the sound is a descending note that starts with chip-chip-chip, tell-tell-tell, it's a chaffinch.

Read Also: Coal Tit vs Great Tit

Watch This!

Frequently Asked Questions 

Which bird is bigger, the chaffinch or the bullfinch?

You can differentiate these species by wingspan, body length, and weight. When you compare their body size, a bullfinch is larger by a few inches. However, a chaffinch is longer from wing to wing and weighs more.

Which bird is more common, the chaffinch or bullfinch?

They are resident birds in the same habitats, so you see them the whole year. Chaffinches are more common in some regions, such as the UK. Bullfinches don't like open areas, so they prefer gardens next to thick forests.

How can you tell a male bullfinch?

This caged bird has a black cap, white rump, pinkish or rosy-red breast and flanks, and a blue-gray mantle. The black crown starts from under the eyes, over the forehead, and the crown. It gives it a black face.

Read Also: Top-Rated Finch Feeders


A chaffinch looks more finch-like because of its seed-eating beak and plumage. But, that doesn't mean a bullfinch doesn't belong to the finch family, as this small passerine bird is also in the Fringillidae family. Their classification difference comes in the subfamily. 

Also, male bullfinches are more striking with their pink to rosy-red underbellies and black caps, while male chaffinches flaunt a grey head and an olive-green rump

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