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, such as Twite, on coasts and salt marshes. The food is mainly seeds. It derives its scientific name from its fondness for hemp, and its English name from its liking for seeds of flax, from which linen is made.
It is slim bird with a long tail. The upperparts are brown, the throat is sullied white and the bill 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 pleasant song contains fast trills and twitters.