LINNET (Carduelis cannabina)

Linotte mélodieuse

The Linnet in a very active member of the Finch family. In Switzerland it can be found from low altitudes up to about 2200m, but is most common in the semi-open country that can be found from about 1400m upwards. Elsewhere in Europe the numbers are declining, probably due to overuse of herbicides and mechanical clearance of the scrubby type of vegetation it prefers, but in Switzerland it seems stable probably because that high habitat is most stable. It is a small, generally brown streaked bird with a longish tail, the male has a small red forehead and in the breeding season he develops a wonderful reddish-pink colour on the sides of his breast. They are seldom seen alone, in the breeding season mostly in pairs, but they soon form loose flock which in winter can become very large flocks often mixed with other finches.


For many years it was prized as a cage bird, essentially for its song, which is sweet but not at all powerful, and its popularity may also have been because it was very common and easily caught using decoy birds. Nonetheless there are many references to the song of the Linnet in folk music and the name in French is of course a direct reference to this.


In reality the song I find rather weak, somewhat wheezy, and delivered in short snatches. Patterns are hard to detect (as in most Carduline finches) and it is more the timbre and quality that identify it. Individual phrases are numerous and Cramp and Perrins give many examples of the individual phrases from data gathered from captive birds. I will not try and repeat all that here, but I have noticed that individual birds do seem to have certain favorite phrases that they pick and repeat in their song. For example this bird has a characteristic way of introducing some of the phrases which appears in several places - it appears in phrase1 and is embellished in phrases 2 and 3 in this sonogram, look at it and then listen to the whole sequence in the player that follows:

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Here is another example, this bird has a characteristic strong note at about 4Khz that you can see in the sonogram at 1.5s, 2.2s, 8.4s and 9.1 s. Again learn it from the sonogram then pick it out in the longer recording that follows:

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Now I am not suggesting that you will ever find these actual phrases in the wild (maybe rarely if you are lucky) but when listening to a Linnet look out for certain phrases that may be repeated in the song. Also note that each phrase tends to be delivered in a short burst and that the squeaky, wheezy characteristic is quite clear.

That said listen to this final song which starts out with quite an exceptionally long phrase, full of trills and twirls, it later settles back into the more regular pattern of short phrases:

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A long complex sequence - very hard to pick out any pattern though, I think you will agree. There is one call phrase that is very distinctive however. In flight and when perched they will utter a rapid "chup-chup" sound as a contact call, also, and I have only heard it when they are perched, they have a very cheerful sounding "chew-wheee" call, this one is very distinctive and definitely worth learning. Here is a bird that is perched using both of these calls mixed together:

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Lots of cows bells in the background I am afraid - but have a look at the sonogram and it will help you learn these two calls both of which are distinctive and helpful to know when in the field:





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