The hawfinch makes its home in thin deciduous woods from lowland to mountain elevations, as well as in large parks and gardens. Its most marked characteristic is the enormous parrot-shaped beak, with which it can crack hard seeds, cherry stones and the like with facility. It is widely distributed throughout Europe, except for Ireland and Iceland, and in Scandinavia occurs only in the southeastern parts. Its range extends eastwards as far as Japan and it is also found in northwest Africa.
Hawfinch Diet and Breeding
Individuals from central Europe, generally transient migrants, wend their way in a south-westerly direction during the winter months, whereas populations from western and southern Europe do not leave their nesting grounds all year. The hawfinch builds its nest at the end of April or the beginning of May, generally in broadleaved trees and often in fruit trees, from 2 to 10 metres above the ground. Made of roots, plant stalks and grass, it rests on a thick layer of twigs and is lined with hairs or fine roots.
The 4 to 6 eggs are incubated by the hen alone for 14 days, during which time she is fed by the male. The young leave the nest at the age of two weeks. In spring and summer, the hawfinch occasionally feeds on insects which it catches on the wing, but the mainstay of its diet is various seeds and kernels. It is fond of visiting cherry orchards, its behaviour there being so quiet and cautious that only the cracking sound as it splits the cherry stones reveals its presence. The young are fed insects at first and later soft seeds.