, Fringilla coelebs
, introduction from Britain into Cape Town during the late 19th century is attributed to Cecil J Rhodes who released hundreds of birds of six well known English species (Rooks, Nightingales, Blackbirds, Song Thrushes, common starlings and Chaffinches) at his grand Groote Schuur estate on the slopes of Table Mountain. Apart from the starling that flourished, the chaffinch barely managed to survive. The other CJR colonists eventually died out. The Chaffinch is atypical in that it has neither gone extinct, nor become invasive as have most other introduced aliens have done. It also seems to have had little impact on indigenous flora and fauna, occupying plantations, alien woodlands, parks and gardens, rarely moving into mountain fynbos.
Although it is supposedly common from Rondebosch to Tokai, I spent much longer than anticipated running around in the Tokai pine plantations before getting a glimpse of a few of these reticent colonists.
The chaffinch has a unassuming diet that encompasses invertebrates, seeds, fruit and green vegetation; probably the reason why it has managed to survive in this corner of the Cape.
Its typical lifespan is around three years, but birds have been recorded exceeding 11 years in age. Chaffinches usually only have one brood a year, typically rearing four young.
Although the Chaffinches' song is a short and simple repetition of notes ending in a flourish they are persistent singers and a male bird will utter his song five or six times a minute, up to 3,000 times a day.