Fringilla coelebs - autumn



Moult contrast present in the wing of 1cy, generally among outer GC, or between GC and PC. A few birds also show contrasts in TT or RR. Adult birds show a uniform and freshly moulted plumage.


  • Often show moult contrast in outer GC: Fresh post-juvenile inner GC are darker greyish black and usually show a wide yellowish-white tip in contrast to the slightly more worn, greyish, juvenile outer GC with narrow white tips. Others have included all GC in the moult, and the contrast is then found towards the still juvenile PC.
  • Juvenile PC are generally slightly more narrow, more worn in tips and edges and less brightly coloured in the green/grey edge of outer vane (though males often show all black PC). A slight variation occur, and some individuals may be a bit more difficult to assess than other.
  • Juvenile RR are somewhat variable, but generally slightly more narrow and pointed in the tips and show a juvenile quality to the feather. A few individuals have moulted single or some RR and then exhibit moult contrast among RR. 
  • Most individuals show uniformly juvenile TT, but a few may include one to all feathers. Post-juvenile TT are fresh and show a more contrasting pattern with a blackish centre and deeper rusty or buff edge (similar to the post-juvenile inner GC), contrasting well to unmoulted TT and inner SS.
  • Uniform plumage lacking any moult contrast (though rare occasions of retained/forgotten feathers are known).
  • Whole wing and tail (esp. PC, PP and RR) in better condition with broader and denser feathers, more blackish in colour and with better gloss (esp. in males).
  • Tips of RR generally more blunt and broader.

1cy December (male). GC1-2 juvenile, contrasting to post-juvenile GC3-10. Juvenile outer GC are worn and slightly paler grey with narrow white tips while the inner post-juvenile ones are darker greyish black, showing a wide yellowish-white tip. [1ET29386]

1cy October (male), showing retained juvenile GC1-3 in contrast to post-juvenile inner GC4-10. [1ES79692]

1cy September (female), showing retained juvenile GC1. Female GC are generally slightly paler grey than males. [1ET80422]

1cy October (female) with no retained juvenile GC. The moult contrast is then present between post-juvenile GC (dense and fresh) and juvenile PC (less dense and often slightly more worn/freyed). [1ET80555]

2cy+ November (male). Uniform and fresh post-breeding wing, lacking any moult contrast. The dark portions of the feathers are darker blackish with better gloss. [1ET81038]

2cy+ October (female), showing the female version of an adult wing. [1ET80593]

1cy October (male). Juvenile PC are generally less dense, slightly paler (brownish-) grey with variably worn/freyed tips and edges. Note that this bird show juvenile GC1-2, which together with the PC contrasts to the moulted post-juvenile inner GC3-10. [1ES79693]

1cy October (male), showing variation in colour, shape and wear to the juvenile PC. Like the former bird, GC1-2 are juvenile in contrast to post-juvenile inner GC3-10. [1ES79588]

1cy September (female). Juvenile female PC are generally slightly paler greyish-brown than in males. This bird show a retained juvenile GC1, which together with the juvenile PC contrasts to post-juvenile GC2-10. [1ET80422]

1cy October (female). Juvenile PC contrasts to post-juvenile GC1-10. [1ET80555]

2cy+ October (male). Post-breeding PC are generally in better condition, slightly broader and darker blackish. No contrast is seen to the similarly post-breeding GC. [1ES79694]

2cy+ October (female), showing the female version of adult PC. Note the fresh greenish edges to the outer vane. [1ET80593]

1cy October (male). A uniform set of juvenile RR - rather narrow and slightly pointed and worn tips. [1ET80885]

1cy October (male). Not the easiest tail to assess, but under all circumstances two generations (juvenile and post-juvenile) of RR are present. In the right half, R4-5 are post-juvenile, and in the left half R2 (and perhaps also R5?) are post-juvenile. Remaining RR are most likely juvenile. [1ES79693]

1cy September (female). Uniformly juvenile RR, typically rather narrow and with worn, pointed, tips. Note that all birds are not as straight forward as this one, and some show sightly more adult-like RR than this. [1ET80553]

1cy September (female). This young bird actually shows a uniform post-juvenile tail, inseparable from adult birds. Such advanced moult should be extreamly rare (perhaps even impossible?) in Chaffinch, and it is more likely to be the result of a replacement following an accident. However, it still serves as clear reminder not to blindly trust the RR - always check the moult pattern in wing. [1ET80422]

2cy+ October (male). A uniform post-breeding tail. RR broad, blunt tipped and in good condition (glossy blackish). [1ET80911]

2cy+ September (female), showing variation of the post-breeding RR. [1ET80466]

1cy October (male). Uniformly juvenile TT with dark brown (sometimes blackish-brown) centra, contrasting to post-juvenile GC but same generation as inner SS. [1ES79692]

1cy September (female), showing the female version of juvenile TT. [1ET80350]

2cy+ October (male). Uniformly post-breeding TT, GC and SS. [1ES79694]

2cy+ October (female), showing uniformly pre-breeding TT, GC and SS. [1ET80593]

Ringers’ DigiGuide is sponsored by: