This 3D model has been scanned from a greenfinch in the Natural Science collections. It’s part of the loan collection held at the Booth Museum of Natural History.

What can we see?


The greenfinch beak is short and sturdy as it has evolved to allow the bird to specialise in a seed based diet. The robust beak is used to break into the shells of larger seeds such as sunflower seeds, to get at the nutty kernel inside. They eat a wide variety of seeds but do seem to prefer those held in fleshy fruit (like rosehips or blackberries) even though they tend to discard the fruit itself.


Greenfinch are passerines, which in simple terms are perching birds. All passerines have four toes on each foot – three pointing forwards, and one pointing back. A tendon in the back of the leg contracts to curl up the toes and lock them into place. This allows them to grip tightly, and stops them falling off the branch when they sleep.


Greenfinches unsurprisingly get their name from their olive green colouration. In adult males this is much more vibrant than in females or juveniles. The specimen digitised here is an adult female and the green is much duller. This can lead to some confusion if observing them at a distance as they blend in with other birds at garden feeders such as sparrows and dunnocks.


The feathers on the outer surface of the bird are vaned feathers used to contour the bird. They give it a smooth streamlined surface that cuts down drag when in flight. The vane (stiff shaft) in the centre of the feather also allows them to to create stiff flight surfaces when stretching out their wings, allowing them to fly. If you compare these feather to those on an ostrich you can see the ostrich is missing these contour feathers as it doesn’t need to fly.

Author: Lee Ismail, Curator of Natural Sciences


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