Identifying garden birds

Girls looking through binoculars
How many garden birds can you spot? (Photo: WTML/Ben Lee)

At this time of year, it’s important to make sure you keep your bird feeders topped up. That’s because your feathery garden visitors will come to rely on them during winter and into spring. Lots of different birds will stop by to refuel, and we’ve put together a list of common UK birds that you’re most likely to see – whether they’re in your garden or local park. Just grab your trusty binoculars and get spotting!

Starling

Starling
Look out for large groups of starlings flying through the air. These are called murmurations (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk)

It may look black with lots of light coloured spots, but close up you’ll see that there’s purple and green in the starling’s feathers too.

Fave food: It’s not a fussy eater, but its favourite foods are insects and fruit.

Blue tit

Blue tit
In winter, blue tits flock together with other tits to find food (Photo: WTML/Margaret Barton)

Its mix of blue, yellow, white and green makes this colourful little bird very easy to identify.

Fave food: Peanuts, seeds and insects

Blackbird

Blackbird
Listen for blackbirds singing in the early morning (Photo: WTML/Eric Mahy)

The males of this species are (surprise, surprise!) black, with an orange-yellow beak. But did you know that females are often brown with spotted breasts?

Fave food: Worms, berries and porridge oats

Goldfinch

Goldfinch
Leave plenty of nyjer seeds out and goldfinches will flock to them (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk)

It’s hard to mistake this colourful bird with its red face and golden yellow patches on its wings.

Fave food: Sunflower hearts and nyjer seeds

Chaffinch

Male chaffinch
Male chaffinches are unmistakable! (Photo: WTML/Dave Foker)

Male birds has a pinkish breast (while females are usually more brown), and black and white flashes on its wings.

Fave food: Seeds, but they prefer to eat them off the ground rather than from a bird feeder.

Robin

Robin
Spot robins searching for worms in the soil (Photo: WTML/Amy Lewis)

With its red breast, there’s no mistaking the robin. Hopefully, you’ll see one in your garden and not just on your Christmas cards!

Fave food: Minibeasts, especially worms

House sparrow

House sparrow
House sparrows will eat almost anything! (Photo: northeastwildlife.co.uk)

This cute little brown bird is a common garden visitor: you can't miss their chattering flocks! Look carefully and you’ll notice that some have a black chin and bib – those are the males.

Fave food: Almost anything!

Woodpigeon

Wood pigeon
Woodpigeons are some of the biggest birds to visit feeders (Photo: WTML/Amy Lewis)

Our commonest pigeon is grey with white patches, but look carefully and you’ll see it has some pink and turquoise in its feathers too.

Fave food: Most seeds and grains

Don’t forget to download a copy of our garden birds ID – it will help you identify your visitors.

How to feed birds

Winter is a tough time for our feathered friends so they’ll be very grateful for some extra grub. Plus, putting out some food every day will mean lots more visitors to your garden! If you can, hang your feeders near a window so you can easily spot who stops by.

  • Why not give them a treat by making your own bird cake? Just mix nuts, seeds, cooked rice, uncooked porridge oats and dried fruit, such as raisins, with suet and lard until you get a squidgy lump. Don’t use soft fats like margarine as they can get on birds’ feathers and clog them up.
  • Have a go at rustling up some scrummy bird food – try making fat maggots and cheesy pine cones. If you want to make your own seed feeder, our bird feeder (or our squirrel-proof bird feeder if you have squirrels in your garden) is brilliant.
  • Hang your feeder where cats can’t get at it, and quite close to bushes or trees as birds don’t like to feed where it’s too open.
  • Clean out feeders regularly or the food can go mouldy and make the birds sick.
  • Remember to put out some fresh water in a shallow dish too.

Don’t forget to tell everyone about the birds you’ve spotted by posting on our Facebook page, or on Instagram or Twitter using #NatureDetectives.

Tell us which birds you've spotted!

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