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 170 British birds.

Blackbird

Blackbird

Turdus merula
Males are black with yellow bill and eye ring. Females are brown with spotted breasts. They often raise their tail on landing and have a loud, mellow, fluty song.

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

Blue Tit

Cyanistes caeruleus
Small and acrobatic, visits trees, shrubs and bird tables. Bright blue cap surrounded by white with blue wings and tail and yellow underside.

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

Chaffinch

Fringilla coelebs
White wing bars distinguish it from other finches. Male is pink below with blue cap in summer. Female is duller. Thick seed-eating bill.

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

Collared Dove

Streptopelia decaocto
Pale greyish-sandy dove with a thin black collar. Dark-tipped wings with grey panel. Monotonous triple call.

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

Dunnock

Prunella modularis
Delicate shy bird that creeps along the ground looking for food. Grey head, streaky back and flanks, thin bill, orange-brown legs.

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

Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis
Conspicuous red face and yellow on wing. Feeds on seeds of thistle, teasel and other weeds. 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

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Dendrocopos major
Black and white and vivid red under tail. Male has red on back of head. Drums in spring, hammering bill on a tree trunk or branch.

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

Parus major
Largest tit with bold black and white head and black central breast. Common at bird feeders but often feeds on the ground.

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

Chloris chloris
Stout pale bill, drab to bright green body, yellow on wings and tail. Female has slightly less yellow than male.

Greenfinches's 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

Passer domesticus
Small, lively, sociable and noisy birds. The male is streaked rusty-brown on his back while the female is sandy-brown. They usually feed on the ground in large groups.

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

Garrulus glandarius
Striking colours but white rump most obvious feature, especially in flight. Blue on wing less easy to see. Hops in springy bounds on the ground but usually secretive.

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

Aegithalos caudatus
Tiny, pink, black and white with long, black tail. Usually in small groups flying "follow my leader" style from shrub to shrub.

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

Magpie

Pica pica
Large pied bird with a very long tail. Juvenile is short-tailed at first but unmistakably a magpie. 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

Robin

Erithacus rubecula
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

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

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

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.

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.

30 Responses

  1. 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?????

  2. 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

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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

  9. 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

  10. 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?

  11. 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.?

  12. 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.

  13. 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.

  14. 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!

  15. 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.

  16. 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

  17. I saw something similar tail like a wagtail with a red head i know my bird’s not a clue what it was

  18. 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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