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Country diary: bullfinches and their passion for cherry buds

Crook, County Durham: A steady rain of shredded petals settles daily on the flagstone path

A family of bullfinches, Pyrrhula pyrrhula, started to visit our winter-flowering cherry in early December, soon after it began to bloom, and they have returned almost every day. I planted the tree about two decades ago and now its crown is level with the bedroom windows, offering opportunities to watch these shy birds at close quarters. They come to feed on its seemingly inexhaustible supply of flower buds that will last until spring.

Bullfinches’ passion for fruit tree flower buds led to their persecution by orchard owners, though they are equally fond of hawthorn for most of the year. The 19th-century parson-naturalist Francis Orpen Morris even had a theory that their name was a corruption of budfinch, “the word bud being pronounced in the vulgate of the north of England, as if spelled ‘bood’.”


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