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British Garden Birds

If you have spent some time cultivating a bird friendly garden then you should soon start to see some of Britain’s most common garden birds visiting your bird tables and feeders and wildlife friendly plants.

These mini guides to some of our favourite birds to visit British gardens will assist you with their identification as well as help you find out more about each species. You’ll also discover what types of food will attract them to your garden.

For a more comprehensive guide to identifying British birds take a look at our bird identification guides where you will find detailed descriptions of over 260 British birds.

Blackbird

01

Blackbird

Turdus merula

A large thrush with a long tail that runs and stops across the ground. Males are black with a yellow bill and eye ring. Females are brown with streaked breasts and a pale throat. Her bill is dark, or yellow with a dark tip. In flight the wings and tail are broad and the male has a paler outerwing. They often raise their tail on landing and have a loud, mellow, fluty song which is best heard at dusk.

Blackbirds can be spotted foraging on the ground picking the grass and earth to find worms. They’ll enjoy fruit left out for them on bird tables or the ground.

Blue Tit

02

Blue tit

Cyanistes caeruleus

A small, barrel-bodied, acrobatic tit that visits trees, shrubs, and bird tables. Its strong grip allows it rest at any angle. A bright blue cap surrounded by white on the face and black on the chin and through the eyes. Blue wings and tail, and yellow underparts with a darker streak down the centre. Females can sometimes look greener. Has a high, sharp call and a slurred song. Can often be found in mixed flocks with other tits.

Blue tits’ natural diet consists of insects, caterpillars, and beetles, but they’ll happily eat from bird feeders, in particular nuts and sunflower seeds.

Chaffinch

03

Chaffinch

Fringilla coelebs

A sparrow-sized finch with a long body. Male has orange-pink underparts, a greenish rump, dark wings with white wing bars which distinguish it from other finches. The face is orange-pink with a blue-grey cap. The female is duller, olive-grey above, and olive-buff below. Thick seed-eating slate-grey bill. Often tame around car parks and gardens. Song is bright and rattling, while call is monotonous, repeated over long periods in the summer.

Chaffinches can be shy birds preferring to eat undercover. Sprinkle seed mixes near shrubs and hedges to encourage them to visit your garden.

Collared Dove

04

Collared dove

Streptopelia decaocto

Neat, elongated dove often found on the ground, TV aerials, wires, and roofs. Pale greyish-sandy plumage with a thin black collar. Dark-tipped wings with a grey panel. In flight the underwing is soft, pale grey, and the underside of the tail has a black base and broad white tip. Monotonous triple call. Flight call is nasal. Wings clatter less than pigeons but can whistle loudly in short, fast flights.

Collared doves eat mainly seeds and grain although they’ll occasionally eat berries and insects too. A high energy seed mix will attract them to your garden.

Dunnock

05

Dunnock

Prunella modularis

Small, dark, sparrow-like bird but with a fine bill. Delicate and shy, it creeps along the ground looking for food. Heavily streaked upperparts and flanks, grey underparts, and face. Thin, orange-brown legs, and reddish eye. Often found in groups with spread wings or shuffling and creeping on flexed legs. Call is a bright, even whistle, while song is a fast, high warble with even speed and pitch.

Dunnocks are primarily ground-feeding birds and flick their tail as they eat insects and spiders. Offer them some live or soaked dried mealworms for a tasty treat.

Goldfinch

06

Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis

Small, dainty finch with a conspicuous red face and yellow on wing. The upperparts are dull brown, and the underparts are buffy-white with brown breast patches. Wings are black, rump is white, and tail is black with white spots at the tip. Feeds on seeds of thistle, teasel, and other weeds. Perches high in leafy trees and often in groups of between 5 and 10 or more where food is abundant. Distinctive tinkling call, often heard when birds are flying.

Sunflower hearts are a firm favourite with goldfinches. Fill up a special feeder and you should soon have a charm come flocking to your garden.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

07

Great spotted woodpecker

Dendrocopos major

Medium-sized woodpecker with a bold, distinctive pattern. Jerky movements in trees and on bird feeders. Black and white upperparts, and buff underparts. Barred black and white wings visible in flight. Vivid red under the tail and male has red patch on the back of the head. Large oval white patch on the side of the back. Female has an all black nape and weaker red under the tail. Drums in spring, hammering bill on a tree trunk or branch. Deep undulating flight. Loud, abrupt call, and squeaky, rattling alarm call.

Great spotted woodpeckers typically feed by picking insects from the crevices in trees. Offer them a suet log feeder if you want them to visit your garden.

Great Tit

08

Great tit

Parus major

Large, bulky tit that is more boldly patterned than the blue tit or coal tit. Green upperparts with blue wings and white wingbar. Underparts are pale yellow with a black stripe down the centre of the belly. White sides to the blue tail. The head is black with a white oval cheek. Acrobatic feeder but will also probe on the ground. Loud, see-sawing song, while the call is a variety of off-key notes.

In the wild, great tits eat mainly insects but they’re common visitors to gardens and will enjoy tucking into nuts, sunflower heats, and seed mixes.

Greenfinch

09

Greenfinch

Chloris chloris

Large, upright finch with a stout bill. Male is drab to bright green, with yellow streaks on the grey wings and tail. In winter, grey fringes develop on the feathers. Dark through the eyes and a pale bill. Female is brownish-green with soft streaks above and narrow yellow streaks on the wing. Song is a series of musical trills, often performed while rolling. Feeds in fields and under trees, and flies in tight flocks.

Greenfinches’ beaks have adapted to feed on seeds so if you want to see these birds in your garden offer them niger and other small seeds, which they’ll eat, often side-by-side with goldfinches.

House Sparrow

10

House sparrow

Passer domesticus

Small, lively, sociable, and noisy birds. Male has rusty-brown upperparts with a broad, white wingbar, and pale grey underparts. Reddish-brown hindneck and grey crown, pale grey cheek, and black throat and bib. Out of breeding season, the bib is lost. Female is pale sandy-brown with two buff streaks on back, and pale grey underparts. Broad buff stripe over the eye. Forms large flocks in hedgerows and thickets. Call is a series of loud chirrups and cheeps, and unmusical song is similar.

House sparrows have a diverse diet and will eat just about anything. Use up your leftover cheese, nuts, crumbs, and suet to make a delicious homemade fat treat.

Jay

11

Jay

Garrulus glandarius

Medium-sized corvid with wide wings, and a long tail. Pinkish overall with greyer back, black and white wings with a patch of bright blue, large white rump, obvious in flight, and black tail. Black and white streaked crown and black moustache. Hops in springy bounds on the ground but usually secretive. Often flies in pairs one after the other across roads and clearings with elastic wingbeats. Found in woodlands and parks, Voice is a loud ‘mewing’, while alarm call is a harsh screech.

Jays love acorns and other nuts and can often be seen carrying them to their winter stores in autumn. Try unshelled peanuts if you want them to visit your garden.

Long-Tailed Tit

12

Long-tailed tit

Aegithalos caudatus

Tiny, acrobatic tit with a long, slim tail. Dark upperparts with a pink shoulder, and white edges on the wings. Underparts are pink with a white belly. Tail is black with white sides. The head is pink with black and white stripes on the crown. Eyes have a distinctive red eyelid. Found in small groups flying “follow my leader” style from shrub to shrub with audible whirring wings, as well as in mixed flocks with other small birds, in woodland, hedgerows, and thickets. Thin, high call mixed with dry trills.

Long-tailed tits often feed in flocks and will readily feed from bird feeders, fat balls, and suet blocks.

Magpie

13

Magpie

Pica pica

Unmistakeable, large, pied corvid with a very long tail. Back, head, and breast are dull black, while wings have a blue gloss. Large white shoulder patch, belly, and wingtips. Tail is glossed with green, blue, and purple. Juvenile is short-tailed at first but unmistakably a magpie. Often seen in small groups, as well as singularly, or in pairs. Widespread wings when flying on steady, quick beats, and closed-wing dives to the ground or perch. Loud, harsh chattering call.

Magpies are opportunistic feeders and will sometimes take the eggs and chicks of other birds. Divert their attention with kitchen scraps or even dog and cat food.

Robin

14

Robin

Cocky bold birds with plain brown backs, orange-red faces and bibs edged with grey. They are territorial even in winter and sing loudly from perches to keep away rival birds.

Robins can be very protective over food sources so give them their own special feeder filled with mealworms, raisins, mild grated cheese, and crushed nuts.

Song Thrush

15

Song thrush

Turdus philomelos

Pale brown back, v-shaped spots on cream breast. Musical strident song with each short phrase repeated several times.

Song thrushes forage in leaf piles in search of caterpillars, worms, and snails. Leave berries and windfall apples on the ground to encourage them into your garden.

Starling

16

Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Blackish, glossy plumage, heavily spotted white in winter. Short-tailed, smaller than blackbirds. Good mimic of other birds and mechanical sounds.

Starlings can be aggressive feeders and will often arrive at bird tables and feeders in large flocks. Suet-based foods will keep their energy levels up.

Wood Pigeon

17

Wood pigeon

Columba palumbus

Large pigeon with white on neck, pink breast and white marks on wings. Takes off with a clatter of wings. Deep chest noticeable in flight.

Wood pigeons will eat from a bird table sometimes not allowing smaller birds to get a look in. Put out peanuts, sunflower hearts, and seed mixes for a healthy all-round diet.

Singing Wren

18

Wren

Troglodytes troglodytes

Tiny, rusty brown. Pale line over eye and barred wings. Short, dry, irritated call and loud, strident song. Moves mouselike through undergrowth.

Wrens are very secretive and although they are the UK’s most common bird can be hard to spot in the garden. Scatter some mealworms or slices of fruit smeared with peanut butter near the base of hedges and shrubs.

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87 Responses

  1. Keep seeing little bird size of Robin and just as friendly – sits for ages on wall and bobs it’s body down frequently which causes little tail to wag. It’s not a wagtail – light brown pinky colour – south coastal area.

  2. Late afternoon yesterday – and I have just seen a squadron of small birds with yellow/black flashes. They were flying in formation – the same way starlings do. First time I have ever seen that in East London. Probably a Greenfinch – but I didn’t get any photos to confirm

  3. Spotted a smallish bird with LONG THEN NECK that made us notice it. It swooped over a magpie that stood on the grass and landed 50 yards away. It had light grey/fawn underbody and reddish brown wings. It hops and found worms. We can’t find anything like it. Wondering if it is a new hatch

  4. Just seen a small brown/beige warbler type bird on windowsill – had a bright yellow top of head (like it was wearing a hat!!), tiny size, longish thin beak. Cannot see anything in my book like it. Wonderful little thing, smaller than a robin, more like a blue tit size. Any help on what it is?? Cannot find anything under “yellow cap” type birds.

  5. A few times I have seen a bird on my outdoor feeders, it is sparrow size but it has very dark feathers, not like a tree or house sparrow plumage. Have tried rspb site but cannot see any bird it is like. Any suggestions on this bird gratefully received.

    1. I’ve just seen a goldish/very bright brown with a flicker of white on his/her tail and cant seem to find out what sort of bird it is? I’m a Newby lol..

  6. I saw a small bird in my garden I hadn’t seen before. It was a beige/brown colour, had a black face with white stripe around it, and a golden/light orange beak. The tail was black with white dots and had a stripe around it the same colour as the beak. Really stumped as I can’t find any pictures of the bird on google!

  7. Just seen a bird in my garden it was the size of sterling it was black with blue and white stripe on wings and a white beak

  8. 12th Feb 2023. Saw a small pair of birds climbing up a tree together. Size of a goldcrest but these were very dark to black on their backs with white underneath. Too small for treecreepers and they were darker and more delicate. The tree was was amongst a line of trees along the river bank (River Wyre in Garstang, Lancs) just outside the gardens.
    Are they just passing through because I can’t find them in my Collins Guide?

    Thank you

  9. I have a visitor with a curved brown beak, same size as a blackbird, brown with a red/russett coloured chest. Intrigued as to what it may be can you help please?

  10. Just had two very dark brown birds, size of blackbirds but rounder. Male had a reddish tinge to its chest, brown straight beak. Female had a buff chest otherwise same as male. Any ideas?? Foraging in the flower beds.

  11. I saw a bird in my garden it was eating from the feeders it was similar size and look to a starling but it had a cream under belly and brown cream and black markings on its head. Its also had glossy feathers.

  12. A bird has been a frequent visitor to my garden. It is the same size as a blackbird, with a light brown head and beak, and a dark brown body. Any ideas for its identity?

  13. We have a garden bird with a long, black, sharp pointed, woodpecker type beak, light brown head and chest with a black stripe on its face, a black and white spotted underbelly and a dark stripe on its wings.
    Can anyone identify it for me please?
    It may be a young bird.
    Thank you

  14. We are very lucky to have a very mature garden surrounded by fields. (SE) We see all sorts of birds and love watching them. We get all the usual, plus goldfinches, bullfinches, all the tits including coal tits, tiny little goldcrests, tons of swallows, nuthatches, treecreepers and this year, we are lucky to watch the aerobatics of a whole family of spotted flycatchers! It’s taken us a week or two to identify them, and if you think the tits are aerobatic, you want to watch these, they are hilarious. One dived into a hedge after a bug right in front of me!

  15. Very confused; saw a small bird today but can find nothing online to help identify it ;o(
    It looked/behaved like a young bird, was Chaffinch proportions, and as best I could see had sort of Pinky/Peachy Chest and underparts, Sparrow-esque Brown Back with White Flashes within the Wings, a Bright Red cap, and thin black Eye Stripes.
    It flew away as soon as I tried to photograph it.
    Can anyone help?

  16. I have just seen this amazing looking bird on my fence eyeing up the bird feeder, about the size of a Jay with a long beak body feathers dark brown with cream slashes over its back and underneath the back end looked pinky red…any ideas please.

  17. I saw a large bird with a blue breast and a white head with a black stripe, pale brown in the rest of the body. About the size of a crow. Seen on the border of Hampshire and Surrey
    Can’t find out what it was, could someone email me with suggestions please

  18. We have had a white Starling feeding in our garden for the last three mornings, it really stands out from the pack. never seen one previously. Have good images if required.

  19. I was walking in woodland this morning. I saw a bird that I didn’t recognise. It was the size of a blackbird. The feather was black, it had a white cap (top of head) and white throat. Does anyone know what I saw

    1. I just saw something similar . Bout size of a black bird with a white patch running down back of neck

  20. I saw a black and white pigeon sitting on the roof opposite with a normal coloured pigeon this morning,i am sure i’ve seen one around before here quite a long time ago.
    I am in Farnborough/Kent.

    1. I have loads of pigeons that come in my garden. Brown and white, black, black and white, normal grey and an all white. To be honest they are a problem, with approx 50 plus every day they are eating the other birds food. I have got the feeders to stop them getting to the food, but they are always able to knock them to the ground. And soon there will be more after the breeding this year. Does anyone know how I can deal with this?

  21. Just seen 2 sparrow like looking birds in my garden but they both had white stripes down the top of their heads. Any idea what they are? I’m in the Midlands.

  22. Small finch sized bird found (sadly crashed into a window) dead

    Light grey feathers on its back with a black tail that has white feathers at the top nearest it’s body not tip
    Breast feathers are peachy pink.

    Not seen anything like it in my uk garden before.
    Can I send a picture?

    1. Jan used to have birds crashing into our patio doors, we stopped this by getting window stickers from RSPB.
      Sorry not sure on bird species

  23. We have 2 pink breasted quite ordinary looking browny grey birds in the garden . Definitely not a robin and not like any chaffinch . Any ideas what it could be.

  24. Just seen a sparrow sized bird with deep rusty coloured head and chest, bright yellow/green from the waistband down…..as if wearing bright pants, can anyone please identify?

  25. Down in Devon over the weekend and saw this strange Brown Job bird… Poking around on the turf like a starling or green woodpecker. Starling sized, dark brown like a juvenile blackbird but with outstanding orange/yellow shoulders, as it were. Scapulars, I think, is the technical term.
    Those must have been full width of the wing, because the stripes almost met in the middle of its back. I’ve never seen one before, but very distinctive markings, and no ID from my searches.
    The nearest I’ve got is an American Red-winged blackbird… if it were brown and orange and Devon were in the US!
    Does anyone have any pointers?

  26. We keep seeing a small blackbird about the same size as a Robin and it has a small red beak. It hovers in front of shrubs
    Can anyone tell me what this bird is please? We have never seen a bird like this in our garden either in the south or in Yorkshire where we live now.

  27. Just seen great spotted woodpecker on bird feeder,pair of goldfinches yesterday,a chaffinch and seven long tailed tits in the trees,there is a wood behind our garden fence so we get all sorts of birds,jays,blue tits,great tits ,stonechats,bramblings,tree creeper last year,hoping for a nut hatch but no luck so far

    1. Seen one here as well. Looks like a dunnock, but very dark grey/black head and dark grey and brown body.

  28. seen often in my garden, a bird the size of a thrush, black in colour with a white head and yellow beak..what is it?????

  29. Seen today in Fleet Hants. Pigeon sized bird. Walking,brownish body, dark grey wings, red beak with light tip. White flashes in wings and tail

  30. Just seen a bird i cant identify…it was grey, with a paler greytop to its head, dark grey belly shading to pale grey, small white flases on the wings, and when it flew away a definite chestnut flash from behind. Ive watched birds all my life and Ive definitly never seen this..it bobbed up and down intermittently too. Im on the Isle of Wight

    1. Sounds similar to a robin sized, stocky bird with pale short beak I saw yesterday in Oxfordshire that I can’t identify.

  31. First sight of sparrows in a long time. Usual visits from – Jay, Starlings, Wood Pigeons, Collard Doves, and usually a small flock of 10 Goldfinch.

    Not to mention a cheeky Squirrel.
    All in Bolton Lancs.

    1. I saw for the first time a Goldfinch..had to look on here to identify it..2 of them were gathering the coconut lining from one of my planters..it was great to watch..kathryn in Brentwood..

  32. Can anyone help us? My fingers year old and I are novice bird spotters. On our bird feeder in our garden in south east london, we just saw a little bird about the size of the great tits we often see but his body was brown, top of head black, black and white patterns on wings and most striking feature was that beak was orange. Any suggestions would make a five year old very happy! Thank you

  33. Just seen a bird in my garden eating rosehips. Blackbird/Thrush size. Striking pinkish/russet colouring to upper breast /lower throat, then light grey colour to lower chest. Black ring around back of eye and around neck a little. A little white where wing joins body. Beak very slightly hooked but not as in a Hawk.
    Size around Blackbird/Mistlethrush.

  34. Seen today, perched on the fence in my London garden.
    A bird, larger than a blackbird, smaller than a pigeon, with grey back, white front & a pinkish throat. Short beak. When I was readying to take a photo it flew off!
    It looks a bit like a jay but without all the colours?

  35. Seen a large bird with all grey cowl, mottled brown chest and yellow beak, larger than a blackbird. From the research I`ve done I think it`s a Fieldfare

  36. I have seen the strangest bird today in Beverley East Yorkshire. A large bird on a rooftop. It has the body size of an owl. A very long beak that had an orange tinge, it’s body was grey/black but it had a black quiff at the back of its head. I have been on lots of sites to attempt identification

  37. It is 11.15 on a morning in early February in south-west Wales, and the sun has come out. I have just seen quite a large dullish brown/grey bird with a small, pale throat perched on my garden trellis. It seemed larger than a blackbird or a thrush, and spent a very long time preening itself, undeterred by the birds around it. It eventually hopped on to the ivy hedge covering the wall below and presumably ate a few berries. Any ideas what it was?

  38. I think I Have just spotted a White’s Thrush in my neighbours garden. Sort of bigger than an average thrush and speckled all over, sort of gold sandy coloured. had sort of breeches above the knee and a smooth pointy beak.?

  39. According to my little bird book the nuthatch is found in southern Britain. Devon is pretty warm compared to more northerly parts. My policy anyway when a bird Is close to but doesn’t quite fit the description or habitat, is to assume there are always exceptions.

  40. Help. Have noticed a couple of small birds in our garden, I thought might be part of the tit family as similar size but with a pale yellowish belly and long tail which bobs up and down when they walk. Seem to prefer eating at ground level rather than the acrobatics of the tits. Any ideas?

    1. I agree with Shammy. The wagging tail is the giveaway of a – yes – wagtail, & the one that fits your description & is most likely at this time of year is a grey wagtail.
      You don’t say where you are & what kind of environment; wagtails frequent watery places (though not fast moving water) but they do venture further afield.

  41. Today in my garden in Devon i have a bird with a grey head and back, speckled chest and a slightly curved yellow beak. Bigger than a blackbird. Wonder if it’s a cuckoo but didn’t think they arrive here until March!

  42. Hard to ID birds at the mo, they’re all so fat from the fat balls! (-6 last night and snow on the ground)

    But one visitor is dark brown on the back and wings, about the size of a robin but more streamlined, with a pale grey breast, all very uniform, smooth and tidy. Not as pale or decorative as a sparrow but about the same size.

  43. Hello. Today in my garden I saw a greyish bird speckled breast. Yellow beak and it was about the size of a blackbird. If I had to compare. it looked like a puffed up mynah bird. No idea what it is. Scotland

  44. I saw a bird fly up to and stay for a while on partway up our tall ash tee. It was smaller than a jay, with similar proportions and style of body movements, brown but with brighter feathers too on its back and white near base of its underside. The only one close in my bird book is a nutcracker, which allegedly is not in this country. I watch birds a lot, just from the house into the garden, or on walks, I am good at guaging size. Yesterday we watched a great spotted woodpecker for a while in the same tree, and this brown bird was a pretty similar size. Bigger than thrushes and anyway the head was bulkier and held differently. Any comments would be interesting. We’re in mid Devon.

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