Wildlife

Common Garden Birds In The UK

A great tit bird sat on a garden branch
Written by Chris Lee

Our gardens can provide us with so much; the sense of satisfaction when the flowers you planted bloom, the tasty homegrown fruits and vegetables you can enjoy using in your cooking, as well as a much-needed distraction from the outside world.

But our gardens can also provide a wonderful habitat for birds, and there are few things more enjoyable than relaxing outside with a cup of tea, listening to their song and watching them flit about.

In the UK we are particularly lucky to have so many feathered friends who love to enjoy our gardens, and while you probably know what some species are, there are probably many little visitors you don’t recognise. That’s why we have put together a list of the most common garden birds in the UK to help you identify your favourite, feathery garden guests.

Beautiful small garden bird
Birds bring life to your garden all year round

Common garden birds in the UK

Getting to know the birds in your garden is a rewarding experience and, while you don’t have to know anything about them to enjoy watching them, learning how to identify them can be really useful. If you know what they are and would like to see more of them, knowing their name will help you understand how to attract them to your garden more often.

We’ve selected the most common birds you are likely to see and what you need to know about them to encourage them to keep visiting.

Robin

Arguably one of the easiest feathered fellows to identify, robins are famous for their red breast and, while many people associate them with Christmas, you can find them in your garden year-round.

Orange breasted robin on branch
Robins appear when loved ones are near

Robins mainly feed on worms, insects, fruits and seeds but if you want to give them a helping hand, they are particularly fond of suet fat balls and sunflower hearts.

You’ll notice while gardening that robins often keep a watchful eye. This is because they’re waiting for you to turn the soil so they can enjoy a buffet of worms.

Male and female robins are almost completely indistinguishable, and as couples, they will stay together through the breeding season. However, they are also very territorial, so while they will tolerate the presence of each other over the breeding period, they will fiercely protect their territory from each other during the rest of the year.

Robins have highly developed parental instincts and, for this reason, there have been many reports of robins feeding the chicks of other species of birds.

Blackbird

Blackbirds are known for their beautiful song, and they happen to be exceptional mimics. Not only can they repeat the sound of a human’s whistle, but they have also been known to have very realistic impressions of cats, lorries and even phone ringtones.

Male blackbirds have black feathers, while females have brown, and they both have bright orange beaks and brown legs. You will frequently find them foraging on the ground for insects and earthworms, and in the autumnal months, they will help themselves to berries and fruits. If you are keen to encourage them to visit more often then putting out sofbill mixes, live worms and fruits will make them frequent fliers around your garden.

Blackbirds are pretty territorial and antisocial with each other, as well as with other types of birds. In the first year of life, young male blackbirds will find and guard their own territory where they have access to food and which will later also become their breeding ground.

Blackbirds live for around four years, and while they aren’t too fussy about where they reside, they prefer spots with lots of tree coverage.

Blue tit

These beautiful, colourful birds are easily identifiable by their blue wings and tail, green back, yellow chest, white cheeks, black collar and black line across the eyes. But what truly sets them apart is that blue tits are the only British bird to have blue in their plumage.

Blue tits predominantly dine on nuts, seeds and caterpillars and prefer to nest in holes in trees. Feeding them peanuts, sunflower hearts and sunflower seeds and providing them with a nesting box will encourage them to visit your garden throughout the year.

Across Europe, there are as many as 3,600,000 breeding pairs of blue tits, making them one of the most common species of bird that you will find in your garden. The females are responsible for making the nest and will lay clutches of up to twelve eggs. Once hatched, both parents take care of feeding their little chicks.

House sparrow

With their black bib, streaky brown plumage and grey crown, these cheery little chaps are a joy to observe. They have a diverse diet, enjoying insects, nuts, berries and suet. They will also happily consume leftover scraps found around bins and, thanks to this opportunistic nature, they have managed to colonise much of the world.

Being so unfussy, it is super easy to attract house sparrows to your garden. They love bird feeders, and by providing them with nuts, seed mixes and suet high in protein and energy, you will be able to enjoy watching these cheeky chappies day after day.

House sparrows are certainly not shy around humans and, as they have no qualms about scavenging, they will happily nest as close to our homes as possible, including within holes and crevices in buildings.

The house sparrows song is a somewhat random, chirpy yet cheerful affair and, with their abundance of energy and their gregarious personalities, they can provide endless entertainment.

Song thrush

Song thrushes are familiar visitors throughout gardens in the UK; they are brown in colour with dark speckles across their feathers and have a lengthy brown bill. These sweet little ground-feeding birds enjoy a diet of worms, insects and berries but they are particularly adored by gardeners thanks to their love of snails.

If you notice cracked, empty snail shells in your garden, chances are song thrush has just been doing its rounds. Song thrushes will take the snail’s shell in its bill and smash it against a rock so they can eat the contents. It isn’t pretty, but it sure is helpful!

Song thrush in a small garden
Invite song thrushes to your garden to tackle snail problems

If you find that you are having issues with snails, then you can encourage song thrushes to visit by hanging suet coconut shells, fat balls or sprinkling your garden with berry suet pellets.

Female thrushes like to build their nests in dense, leafy hedgerows and will breed between March and June. If you want these handy snail killers to frequent your garden, then we highly recommend leaving your hedges well alone between March and August to protect them while nesting and rearing their chicks.

Great spotted woodpecker

This species of woodpecker is of a similar size to blackbirds and, while predominantly black and white, they also have gorgeous scarlet dashes at the rear of their crown and the end of their tails.

Their diet consists mainly of seeds and insects, but they will happily tuck into feeders containing sunflower hearts and seeds. They will also investigate segments of apples in the hopes to find tasty grubs.

The great spotted woodpecker is a beautiful specimen with an unusually bouncy, fanciful style of flight. They have long tongues that they can flick out, which helps them to catch insects and other tasty morsels from a distance. Even if you can’t see them, they certainly make their presence known with their unmistakable, rhythmic drumming as they bore into trees on the hunt for food.

On the flip side, it is worth mentioning that, come summertime, woodpeckers are often in the habit of attacking other birds’ nests and feeding on their eggs for nutrients. If you are keen to keep other birds from falling victim to woodpecker raids, nesting boxes can be fitted with metal plates which help to deter these determined creatures.

Starling

These noisy, highly sociable birds are seen in most gardens throughout the UK. Smaller than blackbirds they have triangular wings, pointed heads, short tails and glossy black feathers.

Starlings are actually often viewed as pests, thanks to their love for living in close quarters; they like to roost in large numbers and have a habit of making their homes in urban buildings. This can lead to a lot of mess thanks to the vast amount of droppings they can produce.

If you live in an urban setting, we don’t advise trying to encourage them into your garden, but, if you have a larger garden in the countryside and would like to invite them to join you, they will happily dine on most table scraps, fat balls and seeds.

As with blackbirds, they are prolific at mimicking sounds, and this makes them a fun and exciting addition to your garden. They also have a rather individual strut that makes them utterly fascinating to watch.

Jay

Jays are stunning little birds and have, by far, the most beautiful plumage in the crow family. With a white throat, brownish-pink back and pretty white features, they also have gorgeous dark and light blue stripes on their wings.

Jays are particularly shy birds and prefer places where they can hide in the dense foliage of trees. They have a rather varied diet and enjoy seeds, nuts and insects, and even, on occasion, small mammals. Their real soft spot, though, is for acorns. So much is their love for acorns that they can regularly be found hoarding them in the autumn months in order to feast on them during the cold winter.

These colourful creatures are a true delight to watch and if you want them to visit your garden more often then try putting out kitchen scraps, peanuts and seed mixes. They tend to be quite solitary birds but, if you are lucky, you may find them dining together in groups of twos or threes.

Woodpigeon

No list of common garden birds would be complete without including the woodpigeon. Woodpigeons are the most common pigeon found in the UK, and they are also the largest. They are predominantly grey but have distinct white patches on their wings and necks which make them easily recognisable, even when in flight. They also have vivid yellow eyes and a little black tip on their tail feathers.

woodpigeon flying through a blue sky
A beautiful woodpigeon in flight

You can say a lot about woodpigeons, but fussy eaters they are not. They will dine on anything from cabbages to crops, shoots and seeds, berries and nuts, as well as grains and peas. The list goes on and on.

The most familiar traits of woodpigeons, aside from their hefty size, is their gentle cooing sound and clumsy waddle. Like all pigeons, they bob their heads as they walk, and this gives them the appearance of being overweight. The truth is, however, that the total weight of all their feathers is actually a much greater weight than their entire skeleton.

If you enjoy their sweet song and want to encourage them to join you in the garden then, although they will eat almost anything you put out, we advise coaxing them in with sunflower seeds and hearts, peanuts and seed mixes.

Bird is the word

Hopefully, by now you will be able to easily identify many of the most common garden birds in the UK. Birds are such a pleasure to watch, and they also perform lots of helpful services for gardeners, From eating snails and other unwanted pests to helping to turn the soil, these little feathered friends can have a real impact on your garden.

In time you will start to recognise individual birds who visit your garden regularly, and the more often they see you, the more comfortable they will become with sitting in close proximity.

Studies show that over time birds begin to recognise the humans that live in the garden they have chosen to live in and some species can become so tame they will feed from the palm of your hand.

So, next time you are in your garden, take a look around and see what species of birds are about and, by feeding them the appropriate food, they will soon become your feathered friends for life.

About the author

Chris Lee

Chris is interested in nature and the good things that happen when people are in it. He is a freelance writer, with writing published about cycling, green living, and ways to make a difference without fundamentally restructuring your lifestyle.

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