Wildlife of the Lakes: Hawfinch

7 March 2017

The Lake District is a beautifully diverse area, with stunning landscapes and a rich wildlife that mark the Cumbrian countryside as a one-of-a-kind location. When you visit the Lakes you have the opportunity to spot many different animals, such as the red deer, the otter and the red squirrel.

You may also catch a glimpse of the hawfinch, the UK’s largest finch and one of the most elusive birds to spot! But what makes this animal a must-see when you explore the Lakes?

The Hawfinch

With the Latin name Coccothraustes coccothraustes and belonging to the Fringillidae family, the hawfinch is a partly migrant passerine bird that is mainly found in Europe, especially in England. This bird can fly up to heights of 200m, builds a nest in a bushes or trees and lays between 2 to 7 eggs at a time. They are difficult to see because they tend to perch high in trees, but they do feed on the ground too.

Amongst their favourite food is seeds, buds, shoots and fruit kernels, which they crack with their beak. They are typically found in pairs or small groups. They first breed when they are one year old and are monogamous, with the same pairs often meeting year after year.


Their beak might be their most distinguishing feature, as it’s a large triangular bill that is black in summer but lighter in winter. However, it’s not the only thing that makes them unique! Hawfinches are bulky birds with thick necks and short tails, and their colouration is heavy on rusty browns with black, white and grey as detailing colours.

Hawfinches’ heads are orange-brown with black eyestripes and a bib, and their upper bodies are typically dark brown with orange in the underparts.


The hawfinch prefers deciduous forests during the spring, including parkland, when it has its offspring; they are also seen in pine woods where water is near. During the colder months of the year, they seek forests where there are fruit trees, like cherry and plum trees.


Hawfinches are rare and a threatened species, which is why they are on the red list of birds of conservation concern. The UK population decreased by 76% between 1968 and 2011, and in 2013 there were only around 500 to 1000 breeding pairs – there is no known cause for this, but conservation efforts are being made to ensure the population doesn’t decrease further.

Hawfinches are part of the Lakes’ striking wildlife and, because they are difficult to spot and you have to be patient to actually glimpse one, seeing them will be an incredibly rewarding experience. Our cottages and properties for sale are the perfect bases for you to explore the surrounding beauty, including the amazing animals that inhabit it!

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