THERE ARE TWO MAIN groups of finches, the Fringilla species (Chaffinch and Brambling) and the Cardueline finches. The Chaffinch and Brambling are clearly closely related, their different colours arranged in very similar patterns; they have the same basic shape and behaviour, and frequently mingle in winter.
The others, however, are a very diverse group. Their shapes and behaviour are strongly determined by their food. The crossbills have remarkable beaks with crossed, hooked tips, specially adapted to extracting seeds from conifer cones. The Hawfinch has a massive bill for cracking open tough seeds and stones, such as olive and cherry, while the Bullfinch has a softer, rounded bill for manipulating buds and soft fruits. The Greenfinch has a big bill, used for dealing with strong seeds and for tearing open tough fruits such
as hips, while the Goldfinch and Siskin have delicate, pointed bills for extracting seeds from fruiting plants such as thistles and teazels and from cones of trees such as larch and alder.