The Bouvreuil Pivoine, a small bird with an orange-red plastron


You may have seen a pretty ball of red breasted feathers wondering if it was a robin because it wasn’t brown? Do not search anymore ! You’ve probably come across a Peony Bullfinch.

The Bullfinch Peony in the Finch family

The Bouvreuil Pivoine is part of the Finch family. The size of the 220 species of passerines included in this family is quite varied, varying between 9 and 25 cm. The organization of the subspecies that compose it has been called into question by a study dating from 2012 which proposed another classification. But these developments hardly concern only specialists and do not fundamentally change the view that non-specialists and nonetheless bird lovers can have on nature. The Bouvreuil Pivoine is a delight for the eyes!

Like the other birds of the family:

  • it has four fingers on each leg, allowing it to grip plants effectively,
  • its beak is short and conical, solid,
  • its wings bear nine primary feathers.

The Bouvreuil Pivoine, from Japan to France

The Bouvreuil Pivoine is widely distributed in the world and comes in 10 subspecies depending on where it lives.

In Japan, it is the subspecies Pyrrhula pyrrhula griseiventris, which is present, where he is considered the messenger of the god of Culture (Tenjin): it is therefore a sacred bird. On January 7, there is a ritual that sees students go to shrines dedicated to the god Tenjin to exchange statuettes representing the bird, dating from last year, for new ones, supposed to bring them luck and success in their career. studies.

In France, it is the subspecies Pyrrhula pyrrhula europaea which is the most frequent and which we may have the chance to observe. Ornamental bird very popular in Europe in the past, its song being easy to imitate. It was therefore easy to attract and capture him. Today, it has been totally protected in France since 1981. It is forbidden to destroy, capture or remove it, just as, alive or dead, it is forbidden to transport it, use it, sell it or buy it. It is all the more important to respect these prohibitions as this bird is very emotional. It is not uncommon for him to die of fright in the expert hands of banders. It should be handled with great care, and only when necessary.
Why the name “Bouvreuil Pivoine”?

The Bouvreuil Pivoine measures between 14 and 16 cm in height. He is like a ball of feathers perched on slender legs. It is as if he has no neck, his head fitting into the extension of his body. Its black beak is also like a pointed extension of the head, especially since it is black, like the top of the head. This massive aspect explains the first part of its name “bullfinch” because it comes from the Latin bovariolus, “Little ox”. The scientific name of the species is Pyrrhula pyrrhula, term constructed from the Greek pyrrhos, which means “fiery color,” which refers to the male’s red chest. It translates to “Peony” in common parlance. You probably know the expression “to be red like a peony”. The red-orange chest of the male almost disappears in the female which appears in pastel tones. It is during courtship that the male highlights his colors the most.

For the rest of the body, the greater coverts and flight feathers are shiny black with blue reflections, the coverts being terminated in white.

The song of the Bouvreuil Pivoine

In Europe, the song of the Bouvreuil Pivoine is a single long, not very high-pitched “iuh”, emitted at regular intervals. It takes a trained ear to identify this very little audible and characteristic song. In northern Europe, it emits a shorter and higher pitched “hip”, very different from the previous song. We call him Trumpeting Bullfinch.

The feeding of the Bouvreuil Pivoine

The diet of the Bouvreuil Pivoine consists almost exclusively of seeds. In spring, it will prefer the buds. At the end of the season, it frequents trees and shrubs to extract the seeds from the fruits. Young people feed on insects. Its beak is perfectly suited to this diet because it is because it is massive that it can crush the seeds or open their envelope to eat the contents. It rarely comes down to the ground. He will prefer a support in height, even to crush the seeds there.

Seduction and reproduction in the Bouvreuil Pivoine

To seduce the female, the Bouvreuil Pivoine performs a courtship display, during which it presents in particular its white rump. Once the male has finished waddling, he regurgitates seeds into the female’s beak. The male also offers a twig to the female who offers him another in return, to then fly side by side, each holding his twig in his beak. Then comes mating and nest building.

The male would choose the nesting site and the female would then build the nest. It is rarely more than 2 m in height and is usually found in a shrub or bush. It is made from dry twigs, supplemented with rootlets and plant fibers.

The female lays there in April-May between 4 and 6 pale blue and spotted eggs. The female always broods between 12 and 14 days, fed by the male. To feed the young, the Peony Bullfinch accumulates food in pockets located at the base of its beak, on either side of the tongue, when most other Finches do so in the throat.

The chicks leave the nest around the age of 15 days, but the parents still feed them for two or three weeks.

Where can we observe the Bouvreuil Pivoine?

It is in the forest that you are most likely to observe a Bouvreuil Pivoine, as long as they are clear, regardless of whether they are composed of deciduous or coniferous trees. It moves there according to a flight typical of birds of the Finches family: these birds alternate beats and brief folds of wings. As it is fond of fruit seeds, it is also found in groves rich in hedges, orchards. It can be observed in parks and gardens, and even in the city.

In France, he prefers the plain and the middle mountains. But in Japan, it can be found above 2,500 m altitude. In Europe, its population is decreasing because of the elimination of hedges and thickets in agricultural areas. This large consumer of fruit tree buds is also probably sensitive to the phytosanitary treatments implemented in the orchards.