Carduelis spinus

Range & Status

Palearctic; in Britain and Ireland 300,000 pairs (chiefly Scotland and Wales).

Regional Distribution

Cornwall: local resident in coniferous plantations in east and mid Cornwall. First suspected to be breeding at Smallacombe in 1970, but not proven until 1984. Now known to be quite widespread in several plantations west to the Bodmin area. Numbers fluctuate, but some 25-50 pairs breed in a reasonable year. Breeding areas are forsaken in winter, with birds moving into valleys. Immigration brings varying numbers on autumn passage, when parties may be recorded almost anywhere in Cornwall. Isles of Scilly: migrant, chiefly in autumn.

Habitat & Ecology

Breeds in conifer plantations, chiefly mixed Sitka Spruce Picea sitchensis and Larch Larix spp. In winter favours groves of Alder Alnus glutinosa , but in many areas comes into gardens to feed on peanut bags (almost invariably red ones!) This species has colonised most of western England and Wales in the past 50 years, aided by the post-war planting of conifers.


Clear-felling of conifer plantations may knock out local populations, albeit temporarily.


Forestry management for wildlife has improved over the past ten years. Listed (long list) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).