The loathsome Linnet

I have previously  sketched out the reasons why the Linnet is generally regarded as Britain’s least-loved bird.

It’s a little bird – its size signifies its insignificance. It isn’t much of a finch, let alone much of a bird. Size isn’t everything, but the Linnet is in every sense a little bird. It doesn’t measure up in stature to the bold Bullfich or the chirpy Chaffinch.

The male Linnet has a most unsatisfactory plumage with an unfinished look about it. That grey cap suggests lack of both imagination and decisiveness. It’s simply not good enough. And the breast also looks like a rushed job – not a properly crimson breast but a sketch for one. If the Linnet plumage were the result of an art student project it would be marked down, strongly down, for lack of boldness and poor composition.

The chinless Linnet is a ditherer.  It flits and flutters as it tuts and twitters. No sense comes from its beak and it has no sense of direction. Flying round in circles is the closest the Linnet comes to making a decision.

No wonder that the move to remove the Linnet from field guides, or at least to move it to an appendix, is growing apace. Twites, Goldfinches and Siskins are understood to be in favour of this move and a Brambling was quoted as saying ‘The Linnet just messes up our page in the books. It’s embarrassing sharing a page with this apology for a finch. We want a DNA test – it’s probably a pipit really.’.

The BOU was unavailable for comment.



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21 Replies to “The loathsome Linnet”

  1. Oh Mark, you're downright harsh about linnets. They're not so bad. A flock of them skipping about over a winter field is, if not quite a tonic, certainly a welcome bit of fizzy pop to brighten the grey hard days.

  2. Nothing loathsome about Linnets, love seeing them and as with all of our 'little brown jobs' if viewed closely are underestimated in the 'beauty' stakes. They'd be missed if not there at all!

  3. I cannot agree with your dismissal of this bird. The always readable and reliable ornithologist T A Coward in the 1920's describes the male breeding plumage as 'exceedingly handsome', and more to the point reminds us that it is a bird of commons and uncultivated land. That's why linnets always cheer me up, for when you see them you know you are somewhere where agriculture, developers and chic rural dwellers have still failed to entirely eradicate the wild places which we and birds need.

    1. Very well said.

      The sight and song of a cock Linnet in Spring many years ago rekindled my interest and delight in birds

  4. Holds a special place in my affection as it was a Linnets nest in fathers garden hedge when I was not much more than a toddler that first interested me in birds.
    A Cuckoo must have found the nest and laid a egg and duly cleared out the eggs or young and Linnets left to feed this massive chick.
    Somehow I find it one of natures gruesome acts.

    1. I entirely agree regarding the sight of a Linnet's nest with eggs.

      As a late nineteen-forties/early fifties schoolboy, the beauty of seeing a full clutch of Linnet's eggs in the nest, along with those of Dunnock and Song Thrush, always sent the pulse racing and lifted the spirits, no matter how dreary the schoolday had been.

  5. There is a pair of linnets nesting close to Raunds sewage works. The male looks splendid in his little red cap and pinkish chest. Last seen this morning heading off towards Stanwick Lakes!!

  6. This blatant smear campaign against one of the most iconic birds of our countryside has to stop. Now spreading propaganda to win the support of the rest of the Finch family who are clearly just jealous of the Linnet's exquisite beauty. How can they compete with that strawberry red breast of the male set against a chocolate brown back, conjuring images of some luxurious gateaux. Get your "Stop Linnet Persecution" T-shirts here.

  7. Don't think you're winning this one Mark ! Love Dennis' post - the bird and nest that may well have changed his life, as that sort of early memory has done for so many people - an inspiration for getting young people out into the wild to see - Linnets - which, for me, are symbols of the untended land around our towns and cities, which can and should be providing the places for people to re-join with nature in the future.

  8. Oops - you're attempt to lift the message with a nice piece of humour seems to have misfired Mark: 20 Likes v 19 Dislikes (Oops again - just made that 21 likes!). We all need relief at times from discussing serious issues like brood management (or is that now egg management?!) or pointless Secretaries for the Environment lighten up everyone give this man a break!!

  9. I voted for linnet for Britain's national bird. OK it wasn't on the official voting list, but I think of it as a sort of brownish puffin.

  10. Just had a male singing at the RSPB reserve of Camp field marsh. The smell of Gorse and that song brought tears to my eyes! [or was it hay fever setting in!]
    Sadly Linnet is not one of the birds found during the Roman period in archaeological digs across Britain where as Chaffinch and Bullfinch were. So far 136 species of birds have been identified in Roman times many of them now found on this reserve which is the 'camp' of the Romans only 1 mile from the end/start of Hadrian's Wall. What a shame the £3.4 million spent in the area of the reserve was not used to educate the public on the history of birds in this area which includes White tailed Eagle and several geese species.

  11. Funny how you can have a dislike for a certain bird.

    I can't stand mute swans (but like whoopers, bewicks are just ok).

    Silly really.

  12. While we're here, could we all agree that it's time the utterly tedious Chaffinch changed its tune.

  13. The most reliable site for Linnets nearest to me is about to be planted with 2000 houses. That should get rid of a whole population and bring in a new population of people and their cars, slug pellets and paving slabs. That should get rid of the blighters and their Green Woodpecker & Skylark mates!

  14. I can't believe you are serious. The linnet is very attractive and threatened, as are most of our passerines-where is your sense of proportion?


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