Hybrid Greenfinch x Goldfinch in Redditch
On the 15th December 2012 I noticed an odd finch feeding with Goldfinches on Teasels in my garden in Redditch. I managed to get a couple of reference pictures before it disappeared. The bird appeared to be slightly larger than the Goldfinches and lacked the bright colours, although the areas around the head and face that should have been coloured were tinted. I checked various books and websites looking for hybrid photo (either deliberate crosses with canaries etc or wildbirds) but found nothing matching. I didn’t see the bird again and thought that it had moved on.
However on the 16th April 2013 what I believe to be the same bird was spotted drinking from my bird bath, again in the company of Goldfinches. By then the red around the face was more coloured although more Robin’s breast than Goldfinch face. Also the bill appeared a little heavier than a Goldfinch; more towards Greenfinch I thought. See Figs. 1-3.
Coincidentally an article on colour aberrations in birds appeared in British Birds (van Grouw 2013) but nothing described therein matched ‘Farmer’s Funny Finch’ so I sent the picture to him for comment. My email and his reply follows:
Dear Hein van Grouw
During the winter I had an odd finch in my garden which I thought might have been a hybrid between Goldfinch and Greenfinch. It looked mostly Goldfinch but with a heavier bill.
It returned recently and having read your fascinating report in British Birds ‘What colour is that bird?’ I am inclined to think that it might be a partly dilution ‘isabel’ Goldfinch. I have attached the most recent photo and should be very interested to hear your thoughts.
Dear Gary Farmer,
Thank you for your kind email and nice photo.
Dilution always affects the whole bird so partial dilution is not possible. This fascinating bird is indeed a hybrid and given it has green colour in places a Goldfinch should not have green (in fact Goldfinches do not have any green feathers at all), I agree with you that the other parent was most likely a Greenfinch.
This is an interesting observation as hybrids in the wild are very rare.
Hein van Grouw, Curator, Bird Group, Dept. of Life Sciences, The Natural History Museum, Akeman Street, Tring, Herts, HP23 6AP, UK
Tel: +44 (0)207 942 6253 (direct) or 6158 (operator), Fax: +44 (0)207 942 6150, E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Van Grouw, Hein. 2013. What colour is that bird? The causes and recognition of common colour aberrations in birds. British Birds 106:17-29 (January 2013).
Fig. 1. Goldfinch x Greenfinch hybrid (lower) and normal Goldfinch (higher) in a Redditch garden. Gary Farmer
Fig. 2. Hybrid Goldfinch x Greenfinch. Gary Farmer
Fig. 3. Hybrid Goldfinch x Greenfinch. Gary Farmer