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Top 15 garden birds to look out for this winter

Winter can be an excellent time of year to get close up views of birds visiting the garden for food, water and shelter. It also provides an exciting opportunity to see some species which are only here during the winter months.

Following the breeding season and autumn migration, the community of birds in your garden may be different to what it has been over the summer months. As well as our resident breeding birds, we are joined by migrants from Scandinavia, Russia and continental Europe. Here is a list of my top species to look out for this winter.

The robin is one of the few birds to continue singing through the winter months. (Photo: Alamy)
The robin is one of the few birds to continue singing through the winter months. (Photo: Alamy)

Robin
(Erithacus rubecula)

Recently voted Britain’s National Bird, the robin is, for some people, the epitome of winter. It is regularly used as a symbol for Christmas and all things festive. 

The robin is a common breeding bird and in winter our resident population is joined by European migrants.

Unlike the brown female, the male chaffinch has an orange-pink breast. (Photo: Alamy)
Unlike the brown female, the male chaffinch has an orange-pink breast. (Photo: Alamy)

Chaffinch
(Fringilla coelebs)

Chaffinches are common breeding birds found in a wide range of habitats in Britain. They are well adapted to urban living so are a common sight in gardens.

Look out for chaffinches in woodlands too, where they feed on seeds.

Handsome male bramblings have grey-blue heads. (Photo: Alamy)
Handsome male bramblings have grey-blue heads. (Photo: Alamy)

Brambling
(Fringilla montifringilla)

Bramblings are similar in size to chaffinches and often travel in large mixed flocks.

These finches migrate to the UK during winter and tend to be found searching for mast in beech woodland.

The goldfinch's slender bill is perfect for winkling the fine seeds from thistles. (Photo: Alamy)
The goldfinch's slender bill is perfect for winkling the fine seeds from thistles. (Photo: Alamy)

Goldfinch
(Carduelis carduelis)

Goldfinches are a common breeding bird that are often seen at feeders during the winter. Their diet mainly consists of seeds, and niger seed in particular is a firm favourite.

Their unmistakable red masks make them easy to distinguish from other finches.

Its thick neck and stubby bill lends the bullfinch its name. (Photo: Alamy)
Its thick neck and stubby bill lends the bullfinch its name. (Photo: Alamy)

Bullfinch
(Pyrrhula pyrrhula)

Bullfinches are the most striking of British finches. The males are a vibrant pink and the females a duller brown, both with black caps.

They can often be seen at woodland edges but are also found in gardens, often in pairs or small groups.

The dunnock is a ground feeding specialist often seen picking beneath bird tables. (Photo: Alamy)
The dunnock is a ground feeding specialist often seen picking beneath bird tables. (Photo: Alamy)

Dunnock
(Prunella modularis)

The dunnock is a common garden bird but is a bit more elusive than other species.

They're also known as hedge sparrows, and as this alternative name suggests, they tend to seek cover beneath thick vegetation.

Look for goldcrests gleaning small insects among the branches of conifer trees. (Photo: Alamy)
Look for goldcrests gleaning small insects among the branches of conifer trees. (Photo: Alamy)

Goldcrest
(Regulus regulus)

Goldcrests are one of Britain's smallest breeding birds. They tend to favour coniferous woodlands and gardens.

In winter they often join flocks of other small birds and are most frequently seen in the tree canopy. They have a distinctive gold stripe on their head, giving them their common name.

The acrobatic blue tit hangs upside down to feed. (Photo: Alamy)
The acrobatic blue tit hangs upside down to feed. (Photo: Alamy)

Blue tit
(Cyanistes caeruleus)

The blue tit is a resident breeding bird and has a similar diet to other birds in winter, favouring seeds and fats.

Famously, blue tits have been known to tap through the foil lids of freshly delivered doorstep milk to snatch a free meal.

Long-tailed tits travel together in family groups. (Photo: Alamy)
Long-tailed tits travel together in family groups. (Photo: Alamy)

Long-tailed tit
(Aegithalos caudatus)

Long-tailed tits stick together. They raise their young and travel together in family groups, forming flocks with other small birds in winter.

Distinguishable by their prominent tail, they have become commonplace on garden feeders and particularly like fat balls.

Coal tits are smaller and more muted in colour than great tits. (Photo: Alamy)
Coal tits are smaller and more muted in colour than great tits. (Photo: Alamy)

Coal tit
(Periparus ater)

Coal tits have a preference for conifer woodland, particularly during the breeding season.

Although they resemble the larger great tit, they can be identified by the white stripe down the back of the head and the light brown flanks.

Nuthatches store food in caches hidden in the bark of trees. (Photo: Alamy)
Nuthatches store food in caches hidden in the bark of trees. (Photo: Alamy)

Nuthatch
(Sitta europaea)

The nuthatch is spreading northwards across Britain and slowly becoming more common. It is however absent from Ireland.

Look out for it travelling down tree trunks in search of food, using its specially adapted feet to cling to rough surfaces.

Unlike the males, female blackbirds are in fact brown. (Photo: Alamy)
Unlike the males, female blackbirds are in fact brown. (Photo: Alamy)

Blackbird
(Turdus merula)

As with other thrushes, during winter the UK's blackbird population is supplemented by migrants from the continent. These visitors can sometimes be identified by their darker bills.

It is thought resident birds may also migrate to warmer areas within Britain.

Redwings travel by night in search of new feeding areas. (Photo: Alamy)
Redwings travel by night in search of new feeding areas. (Photo: Alamy)

Redwing
(Turdus iliacus)

Redwings migrate from northern Europe, Russia and Iceland to the UK in winter in search of berries and fruit bearing trees.

They are similar in size to blackbirds and song thrushes and can often been seen in mixed flocks with fieldfares. They have a distinct red flank and light brown eye stripe. 

Listen for the fieldfare's chuckling call as it takes flight. (Photo: Alamy)
Listen for the fieldfare's chuckling call as it takes flight. (Photo: Alamy)

Fieldfare
(Turdus pilaris)

As with redwings, fieldfares migrate to the UK from northern Europe in winter and form large flocks.

They feed on berries, fruit and windfall apples and are most frequently seen in hedgerows surrounding farmland.

Waxwings are named for the yellow coating on their wing tips. (Photo: Alamy)
Waxwings are named for the yellow coating on their wing tips. (Photo: Alamy)

Waxwing
(Bombycilla garrulus)

Some years are better than others for arrivals of the UK's most glamorous wintering bird.

Waxwings migrate from the boreal forests of continental Europe to spend their winters with us in search of rowan and other berries.

You can help birds this winter

As the temperatures drop and natural food supplies dry up, expect to see more birds in your garden searching for food. You can help your garden birds by providing fresh, unfrozen water for drinking and bathing, by providing fatty foods such as fat balls, and by leaving  areas of your garden 'untidy' for shelter, such as hedges and ivy. 

Do your bit for birds this winter

Browse our range of bird baths and feeders