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Rambling Bramblings

Posted on 4th November, 2022

This year has been a remarkable year for Bramblings. You may have seen one or two on your garden feeders, or a whole flock or two on your walks around the village. You may also have dismissed them as slightly odd-looking chaffinches as they are very closely related.


As closely related species it’s not surprising they behave similarly – in this case their feeding behaviour – as they are both major consumers in winter of seeds generally found on the woodland floor or wherever there are seed-producing trees, like a tall hedgerow or a scrubby corner of a field. They can even turn up in a disused but overgrown plot of land in an urban area that now grows beer cans and fag packets as well as sycamores and buddleia.


why Rambling? The species breeds in birch and conifer woodland across northern Europe when its diet is principally insects, like chaffinches. In winter though, as well as eating seeds, it has evolved to specialise in beechmast, seeds of beech trees (possibly to avoid competition with chaffinches). This strategy works well until the beech mast runs out or completely ‘fails’ as it does periodically. Then the species rambles across Europe looking for it, into northern Africa and India, as far as China and Japan and, even, The Farleighs!


In some areas of the UK now, both species are enjoying the changes brought about by new DEFRA payments to farmers to support wintering farmland birds. These include planting crops for seed that is deliberately left for birds. When the crops run out, as they tend to by January (when natural food has all but disappeared too, supplementary seed is strewn on the ground to keep them going.


This winter has seen a huge influx of Bramblings into the UK, when last year we barely saw any. A farm in Marden has a trail camera set up at one of its supplementary feed sites and this year these colourful visitors have heavily outnumbered all the other farmland birds.


They have also been welcome visitors in gardens, so we haven’t had to ramble too far to see these beautiful birds.




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