BULLFINCH (Pyrrhula vulgaris), the ancient English name given to a bird belonging to the family Fringillidae (see Finch), of a bluish-grey and black colour above, and generally of a bright tile-red beneath, the female differing chiefly in having its under-parts chocolate-brown. It is a shy bird, not associating with other species, and frequents well-wooded districts, being very rarely seen on moors or other waste lands. It builds a shallow nest composed of twigs lined with fibrous roots, on low trees or thick underwood, only a few feet from the ground, and lays four or five eggs of a bluish-white colour speckled and streaked with purple. The young remain with their parents during autumn and winter, and pair in spring, not building their nests, however, till May. In spring and summer they feed on the buds of trees and bushes, choosing, it is said, such only as contain the incipient blossom, and thus doing immense injury to orchards and gardens. In autumn and winter they feed principally on wild fruits and on seeds. The note of the bullfinch, in the wild state, is soft and pleasant, but so low as scarcely to be audible; it possesses, however, great powers of imitation, and considerable memory, and can thus be taught to whistle a variety of tunes. Bullfinches are very abundant in the forests of Germany, and it is there that most of the piping bullfinches are trained. They are taught continuously for nine months, and the lesson is repeated throughout the first moulting, as during that change the young birds are apt to forget all that they have previously acquired. The bullfinch is a native of the northern countries of Europe, occurring in Italy and other southern parts only as a winter visitor. White and black varieties are occasionally met with; the latter are often produced by feeding the bullfinch exclusively on hempseed, when its plumage gradually changes to black. It rarely breeds in confinement, and hybrids between it and the canary have been produced on but few occasions.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)