British Wildlife Wiki

Linnet -

The Linnet, (Carduelis cannabina), is a small passerine bird in the finch family.

It gets its name from the word linen, as it eats flax which is then spun into linen.


It is a slim bird with a long tail. The upperparts are brown, the throat is sullied white and the bill is grey. The summer male has a grey nape, red head patch and red breast.

Females and young birds lack the red and have white underparts with the breast streaked buff. The Linnet's pleasant song contains fast trills and twitters.


This bird breeds in Europe, western Asia and north Africa. It is partially resident, but many eastern and northern birds migrate further south in the breeding range or move to the coasts.

They are sometimes found several hundred miles at sea.


Open land with thick bushes is favoured for breeding, including heathland and garden. It builds its nest in a bush, laying 4-7 eggs.

This species can form large flocks outside the breeding season, sometimes mixed with other finches on coasts and salt marshes. Its food mainly consists of seeds, which it also feeds to its chicks.

They feed on the ground, and low down in bushes.

They like small to medium sized seeds: most arable weeds, Polygonums (Knotgrass, dock), Crucifers (Charlock, Shepherd's Purse (Capsella bursa-pastoris), Chickweeds (Stellaria sp.), Dandelions , Thistle, Sow-thistle, Mayweed, Common groundsel, Common Hawthorn , Birch.

They have a small component of Invertebrates in their diet.


The Linnet is IUCN Redlisted as threatened and also listed by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan as a priority species. It is protected in the UK by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.

In Britain, populations are declining, attributed to increasing 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.

Favourable management practices on agricultural land:

  • Set-aside
  • Overwinter Stubbles
  • Uncultivated margins, ditches, field corners
  • Conservation headlands
  • Wild bird cover of species that produce small, oil-rich seeds such as Kale, Quinoa, Mustard plant, Oil-seed rape Brassica napus
  • Restoration and creation of hay meadows
  • Short, thick, thorny hedgerows and scrub for nesting habitat
  • Restoration of meadows