The Status and Occurrence of the Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) in British Columbia
by Rick Toochin and Don Cecile
(Read the full text with photos on our Vagrant Bird page).
Introduction and Distribution
The Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla) is a beautiful Old World finch that is found breeding throughout the northern open coniferous and woodland forests from Scandinavia through Russia to the Russian Far East across the Yakutia, Chukotka, south through Koryakia, Kamchatka, the Sea of Okhotsk, south to Amurland and Sakhalin Island (Brazil 2009, Mullarney and Zetterstrom 2009). Bramblings are a highly migratory species that migrate in the spring in April and in the fall in October (Jonsson 1992, Mullarney and Zetterstrom 2009). Bramblings have a vast winter range from southern Europe, to North Africa, to northern India, into northern Pakistan, throughout China and Japan (Beadle and Rising 2006). The Brambling is a rare species in the winter in Taiwan (Beadle and Rising 2006).
In Europe, Bramblings form large flocks in the winter that can sometimes number in the thousands or even millions of birds in a single flock (Jonsson 1992, Mullarney and Zetterstrom 2009). Such large gatherings occur, especially if beech mast is abundant (Jonsson 1992, Mullarney and Zetterstrom 2009). Bramblings do not require beech mast in the winter, but winter flocks of Bramblings will move until they find it as this is a favourite food (Jonsson 1992, Mullarney and Zetterstrom 2009). This may be an adaptation to avoid competition with the similar Chaffinch (Fringilla coelebs) in Europe (Jonsson 1992, Mullarney and Zetterstrom 2009). Bramblings mostly eat seeds, but unlike most finches, their young are fed largely on insects (Jonsson 1992, Mullarney and Zetterstrom 2009).
In North America, the Brambling is an uncommon to rare regularly occurring species in the spring, and rarer in the fall in the western and central Aleutian Islands, the Pribilof Islands and St. Lawrence Island in Alaska (Roberson 1980, West 2008). They have bred once on Attu Island in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska in 1996 (Dunn and Alderfer 2011). Bramblings are considered a casually occurring species in the rest of Alaska with a few records of birds wintering in south coastal and southeastern Alaska in places like Kodiak, Homer and Eagle River (West 2008). In British Columbia, the Brambling is a rare but regular winter visitor with almost ninety Provincial records (Toochin et al. 2013, see Table 1). The vast majority of the observations come from the Queen Charlotte Islands (Toochin et al. 2013, see Table 1). Further south along the west coast records become scarcer. In Washington, there are only fourteen accepted records by the Washington Bird Records Committee (Wahl et al. 2005, WBRC 2012). In Oregon, there are only thirteen accepted records by the Oregon Bird Records Committee (OFO 2012). In California, there are only five accepted records by the California Bird Records Committee (Hamilton et al. 2007). In the rest of North America, Bramblings have occurred in almost all of the Canadian Provinces, the Yukon and from many of the northern states in the United States (Godfrey 1986, Sibley 2000, Beadle and Rising 2006).