Linnets breed in the Canary Islands and Madeira and from Iberia and much of the Mediterranean region north to southern Fenno-Scandia and north-central Russia, and thence to west Siberia, central Asia, Iran and Afghanistan. The Fenno-Scandian and east European populations migrate in winter to the southern parts of the species's range. Some British breeding Linnets also migrate, to western France, Spain and North Africa.
    In Britain in the breeding season Linnets are found virtually everywhere in England and Wales, but in Scotland only in  lowland areas. In winter they also withdraw from the upland areas of northern England and Wales. This distribution pattern has changed little in the last fifty years, though populations have thinned out considerably. Numbers fell rapidly during the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s and in England this downward trend  has continued. The 2019 BBS report recorded a 23% population decrease between 1995 and 2018. There was a similar decline in Wales, although in Scotland the decrease was only 6%.
    In Wiltshire a mid-19th century recorder described Linnets as "extremely numerous throughout" but noted that the increasing conversion of undeveloped land where thistles and weeds flourished into agricultural fields was having a negative effect on Linnet populations - a process that was to prove increasingly significant throughout the 20th century. The introduction of a ban on the cage-bird trade in wild-caught finches in the early 20th century led to a temporary reduction in the rate of decline of Linnet numbers, but the loss of habitat continued to affect their population. Birds of Wiltshire recorded them in 776 tetrads, with breeding in 481. WTA2 recorded them in 691 with breeding in 424.

The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:
1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976:  The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986:  The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser
1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser
“Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.
Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland
WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.
"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.