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The Linnet is a small, slim finch, widely distributed, and once very popular as a cage bird because of its melodious song. Males are attractively marked with crimson foreheads and breasts, females much browner.

It can be flighty and has an undulating flight, usually twittering as it flies. Now it is declining, in common with many other birds which use farmland, and is a Red List species.

The Linnet breeds manly on farmland, and is nearly always seen in pairs, or in family groups. They feed mainly on the ground, on stubble and other winter fields amongst finches and Buntings, eating small to medium weed seeds, (nestlings as well). 

The linnet derives its scientific name from its fondness for hemp and its English name from its liking for seeds of flax, from which linen is made. They are sometimes found several hundred miles at sea.

In Britain populations are declining, mainly due to the use of herbicides, aggressive scrub removal and excessive hedge trimming, its population fell by 56% between 1968 to 1991. This was probably due to decrease in seed supply and increasing use of herbicide being two of the factors.

Quick Facts

Number of broods
2 or 3

Number in Britain
1 million (declining)

Conservation Status UK

Status in UK
Migrant/Resident Breeder, Passage/Winter Visitor

14 cm



Open country, farmland, Coastal areas

Egg Size
18x13 mm

Egg Weight

Clutch Size
4-5 eggs

13-14 days

13-14 days

First clutches laid
Mid May

Age at First Breeding
1 year

Typical lifespan
2 years

Maximum Recorded Age
8 years, 3 months

  • Linnets are part of the Finch family.
  • The Linnet got his name from his liking for the seed of Flax from which linen is made.
  • They have been seen hundreds of miles out to sea.
  • Three football teams have ‘The Linnets’ as their nickname.
  • They are ground feeders or feed from low bushes, however they do occasionally eat insects.
  • In winter, they are found in large flocks on farmland, salt marshes, parks and gardens.
  • It was once a popular cage bird because of it’s beautiful song.
  • They are in decline like so many birds which use farmland.
  • Linnets are very sociable birds, even in the breeding season.
  • They feed on over 46 types of seed.

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