The name derives from this seed-eater’s habit of searching through the chaff for grain after the farmer has threshed their crop. During the breeding season their diet switches to invertebrates. An old name for a Chaffinch is a Spink, which reflects their call. Chaffinches are one of those birds that have regional dialects, and a study revealed that if a young bird is not exposed to its father’s song during a certain critical period after hatching, it will never properly learn it. The colourful males will be undergoing their ten week autumn moult now, and their new feathers will have a buff fringe, which makes them look browner. The ends of these feathers wear away over winter, so that the birds have their brighter plumage to show off come spring. In Victorian times they were popular pets, and a guide to caged songbirds included the following: “To parents and guardians plagued with a morose and sulky boy, my advice is, buy him a chaffinch”. Competitions were held where people would bet on which caged Chaffinch repeated its song the most, a practice that continues in Belgium to this day. Sadly, Victorians believed that blinding a Chaffinch with a hot needle encouraged it to sing.
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