An outing to the countryside is a lovely way to spend the day, but bird watchers in the UK don’t need to leave home to enjoy some fantastic wild bird species.
The United Kingdom is blessed with a host of wonderful garden bird species, from the tiny Wren to the heavyset Carrion Crow. These delightful creatures share our outdoor environments, providing hours of entertainment and a real connection with the natural world.
Would you like to learn to identify and attract more wild British garden birds to your garden? Read along to discover 23 garden species that might already call your garden home. We’ll also learn some interesting facts about them and give you some tips on their favourite foods.
Close up portrait of a Blackbird
Blackbird foraging for food in the grass
Blackbird eating berries from a tree
Blackbird in flight
Close up of a male Blackbird foraging for food in the woods
Blackbird singing from a branch
Close up of a perched female Blackbird
24cm to 27cm
34cm to 38cm
85g to 105g
david m, XC619208. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/619208.
The Common Blackbird (Turdus merula) is a ubiquitous, medium-sized garden bird in the UK. Males are black with a contrasting orange bill, while females are brown with a brown bill.
Blackbirds visit our gardens throughout the year, and their sweet song often rings out at the break of dawn. Common Blackbirds feed predominantly on insects but also eat berries when available.
They find gardens throughout the UK to be rich foraging grounds, although providing a water feature/ bird bath and their favourite foods like fat balls and mealworms will make your outdoor environment even more attractive.
A pair of Blue Tits
Blue Tit in flight
A blue tit feeding on a caterpillar
Eurasian Blue Tit perched
Eurasian Blue Tit Call / Song
Manceau Lionel, XC646473. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/646473.
The Eurasian Blue Tit (Cyanistes caeruleus) is a colourful little bird with bright blue, white, yellow, black, and green shades.
This widespread species is a common visitor to gardens where they actively forage for caterpillars and small insects.
These lovely birds will visit bird feeders where seeds, nuts, and fat balls are provided. You can even encourage Blue Tits to nest in your garden by setting out a nest box.
Stuart Fisher, XC29756. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/29756.
The Great Tit (Parus major) is yet another bold and colourful garden species familiar to many British and Irish birdwatchers.
These non-migratory songbirds regularly visit bird feeders where they can be rambunctious and even downright aggressive towards other garden birds.
The Great Tit is similar in appearance to the Blue Tit but has a black (rather than blue) cap and throat. The species is also significantly larger than its blue cousin, although the two often forage together, especially in the colder months.
Birdwatchers can spot them throughout the UK (apart from the north of Scotland) and the rest of Europe.
Close up of a Goldfinch
Adult and Juvenile Goldfinch
European goldfinch, feeding on the seeds of thistles
Perched Goldfinch calling before taking off
Typical habitats for Goldfinches include woodland, parks, gardens, scrubland and farmland
Goldfinches have a stable population in the UK
European Goldfinch perched on a branch
12cm to 14cm
21cm to 25.5cm
14g to 19g
Alexander Henderson, XC468562. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/468562.
The European Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) is a welcome sight wherever they turn up. These bold and bright little seedeaters are easily identified by their scarlet, white, and black faces and contrasting black and yellow wing feathers.
European Goldfinches are specially adapted to feed on fine seeds like thistle, and thankfully, they will happily visit your garden, especially if you hang up a nyjer bird seed feeder.
They are most common in the south of the UK, and although some are present throughout the year, you are most likely to spot them in summer.
Close up of a European Robin
Close up of a perched Robin
Robin with a beak full of Mayflies, ready to feed the hungry chicks in the nest
Close up of a Robin in flight
Robin Redbreasts are extremely fond of mealworms
Robin taking a drink of water
Robin standing on a branch next to a monarch butterfly (Danaus plexippus)
Close up of a Robins nest with unhatched eggs inside
Familiar sight of a Robin in a garden, perched on a watering can
Robin taking a bath in a bird bath
20cm to 22cm
14g to 25g
Frank Lambert, XC414220. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/414220.
The Robin (Erithacus rubecula) is a beloved UK garden bird that needs little introduction.
These bed-breasted songsters are common in gardens throughout the country. Robins are generally unobtrusive, although they can become very confiding.
Despite their sweet looks and voices, Robins are highly territorial, which explains why you’re most likely to spot just one or two in your garden. The same mated pair will visit your garden throughout the year to forage for insects and other invertebrates.
European Starling calling whilst perched on a branch
Starling feeding a Juvenile
Starling perched on a wooden log
Adult Starling in flight, with spread wings
Five starling eggs inside the nest of a Starling
Starling close up
20cm to 23cm
31cm to 40cm
60g to 90g
The Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is a common and conspicuous garden bird across the United Kingdom.
These intelligent and wary birds are most beautiful in the breeding season when their plumage takes on an oily sheen and reflects green and purple shades in good light.
Starlings feed primarily on insects, although they will readily visit bird feeding tables, especially where suet, peanuts, and sunflower seeds are on offer.
Sadly, Starlings are in decline in rural areas of the UK, although they remain a familiar sight in urban and suburban parks and gardens.
Close up of a Wren, also known as the Eurasian wren
Wrens are tiny birds, and one of the smallest bird species in the UK
Close up of a perched Wren singing in full voice
Wrens mainly eat insects
Eurasian wren foraging for food amongst the leaves
Wrens are distributed pretty much all over the UK
Wren about to jump into the water
Wrens are one of, if not, the most abundant bird species in the UK
Close up of a Wren inside the nest, with two young chicks
Wrens can become highly territorial in the nesting season
Juvenile Eurasian wren perched on a branch
9cm to 10cm
13cm to 17cm
6g to 12g
iSpiny, XC314450. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/314450.
The Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes) is a tiny, non-descript insect-eating bird that is very common in gardens throughout the United Kingdom.
In fact, Wrens are the UK’s most common bird species, with an estimated population of over eight million pairs!
Wrens are active little birds that forage for insects in the undergrowth. They will occasionally forage for scraps around bird tables, however, particularly in the winter when insects are in short supply. At this time, they may become bolder and easier to observe.
Close up of a perched Long-tailed Tit
Long-tailed Tit eating seeds from a bird feeder
Woodland and forests are two of the best places to spot Long-tailed tits
Long-tailed Tit perched on a branch
Long-tailed tits are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981
Close up of a perched juvenile Long-tailed tit
16cm to 19cm
7g to 10g
Long-tailed Tit call
Simon Elliott, XC608607. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/608607.
The Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus) is a unique little garden bird with some rather distinctive features.
Its tail is about the same length as its body, which is small and round. These birds have large heads without discernible necks and tiny black bills.
Long-tailed Tits visit a variety of habitats, and groups of up to twenty individuals may be a common sight in gardens during the winter.
These fascinating little birds feed predominantly on insects, although they are very partial to suet at bird feeders.
A Greenfinch in flight
A pair of Greenfinches on a sunflower
Juvenile Greenfinch being fed by parent
Back view of Greenfinch
Calum Mckellar, XC614194. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/614194.
The Greenfinch (Chloris chloris) is a regular garden visitor and a welcome sight at the bird table. Males are greenish with bright yellow wing patches, whereas females are less colourful.
Greenfinches are commonly associated with humans and are quick to take advantage of a free meal.
Their decline resulted from the spread of a parasite-caused disease, which is why it is so important to keep bird baths and feeders clean.
Today, Greenfinch numbers are increasing, and you could spot them feeding on sunflower seeds or peanuts in your own garden throughout the year.
Close up of an adult male Chaffinch
Close up of a Chaffinch fledgling being fed by adult bird
Close up of a singing Chaffinch in its natural habitat
Male Chaffinch in flight, greeting a perched female
Male Chaffinch looking after the young chicks in the nest
24.5cm to 28.5cm
18g to 29g
david m, XC613420. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/613420.
Chaffinches (Fringilla coelebs) are one of the most abundant birds across the UK and Ireland, so it should come as no surprise that they are extremely common visitors to gardens.
They can be spotted year-round, where they tend to prefer feeding under bird tables instead of on them for seeds that have made their way onto the floor.
Male Chaffinches are mainly orange, with a mixture of browns, greys, blacks, whites and yellow, whereas females are less colourful, and are mostly brown, with black and white detailing, particularly on the wings.
You'll often hear chaffinches before you see them, as they are a vocal species with a distinctive, yet wonderful array of loud calls.
Male left, female right
House Sparrow flying
14cm to 15cm
21cm to 25.5cm
24g to 38g
Gary Elton, XC617108. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/617108.
The House Sparrow (Passer domesticus) is an abundant and familiar garden bird species in the UK whose call is a familiar sound to people all over the country, whether they realise it or not!
These small seed-eating birds nest in cavities in our homes and buildings and forage in our gardens and parks, and streets.
House Sparrows tend to forage in pairs, and males have distinctive black throats and facial markings, coupled with rich brown backs, greyish underparts, and white markings on their wings and necks. Females are drab in comparison and relatively nondescript little birds.
Look out for these birds throughout the year.
Dunnock preening its feathers
19cm to 21cm
19g to 24g
Frank Lambert, XC623601. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/623601.
The Dunnock (Prunella modularis) is a common but inconspicuous garden bird in the United Kingdom. These birds occur throughout the United Kingdom, with the exception of the Scottish Highlands.
Look out for these well-camouflaged birds as they forage on the ground near the protection of shrubs and other vegetation.
Both sexes are variously marked in grey and brown, with a sharp black bill and pinkish legs.
Don’t expect to see too many Dunnocks at your feeding station in the summer unless you provide mealworms. However, these birds will feed on seeds in the winter when insect numbers decrease.
Pair of Woodpigeons
Woodpigeon in flight
Juvenile/Baby Woodpigeons in nest
40cm to 42cm
75cm to 80cm
480g to 550g
Common Woodpigeon Song/Call
Samuel Levy, XC626358. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/626358.
The Wood Pigeon (Columba palumbus) is a large and common garden bird that forages and breeds in British and Irish gardens throughout the year.
These pastel grey and pink pigeons are attractive birds, and their prominent white neck bars distinguish them from other doves and pigeons in the UK.
The Woodpigeon is a ground-feeding bird, typically seen searching the lawn for seeds and other plant material. However, they will readily feed on grain and birdseed mixes when available.
Carrion Crow perched
Carrion Crow in flight
Carrion Crow with food
Carrion Crow profile
Carrion Crow calling
Carrion Crow with young
45cm to 47cm
93cm to 104cm
370g to 650g
Carrion Crow call
Maxence Fouillade, XC642131. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/642131.
The Carrion Crow (Corvus corone) is a bold and intelligent bird from the corvid family and an exciting bird to have around the garden.
The Carrion Crow is often wary of humans, although many have learned to take advantage of garden feeding stations, and they may become regular visitors if left to forage in peace.
Despite their sinister name, these large, all-black birds have a varied diet and will feed on anything from grain to insects and fruit.
Close up of a perched Magpie
Magpies are one of the most easily recognisable bird species, by both their plumage and chattering call
Young Magpie with a grasshopper in its beak
Close up of a Magpie in flight
Magpie coming in to land
Magpies are common in gardens throughout the UK and Europe
Magpie harassing a Golden Eagle
Magpies in the UK are year-round residents
46cm to 60cm
52cm to 60cm
160g to 250g
Magpie alarm call
Simon Elliott, XC599983. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/599983.
The Magpie (Pica pica) is another clever corvid that will visit UK gardens to forage. These pied birds are instantly recognisable by their long iridescent tails and contrasting black and white plumage.
The Magpie is common in the southern half of the UK but scarce in large parts of Scotland.
Despite their striking looks and fascinating behaviours, Magpies are not always welcome garden visitors because they can be aggressive towards other bird species.
If you do want to attract these birds, provide their favourite meaty meals like suet, dog food, or mealworms.
Close up of a perched Yellowhammer
Seeds and grains are the most important foods to Yellowhammers
Close up portrait of a Yellowhammer
Arable farmland is one of the best places to see Yellowhammers
Yellowhammers are extremely vocal, and their distinctive song is familiar to many
16cm to 16.5cm
23cm to 29.5cm
25g to 36g
Samuel Jones, XC568308. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/568308.
The Yellowhammer (Emberiza citrinella) is a brightly coloured bunting species that will visit garden bird feeding tables, particularly in winter when seeds become a more important part of their diet.
Both sexes are boldly marked in yellow plumage with black-streaked rufous upper parts. However, males are certainly the most colourful.
The Yellowhammer has a wide distribution in the United Kingdom, particularly in the Southeast. However, they are absent from many higher-lying areas.
Sadly, the species has suffered significant declines and is on the UK’s conservation red list.
Close up of a Eurasian Jay
Eurasian Jay with spread wings
34cm to 35cm
52cm to 58cm
140g to 190g
2 Jays Calling
Simon Elliott, XC602414. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/602414.
The Jay (Garrulus glandarius) is a beautiful woodland bird from the same family as magpies, crows, and ravens.
These colourful corvids are instantly recognisable by their pastel pinkish plumage, bold black moustache stripe, and the bright blue barred feathers on their wings.
Eurasian Jays will visit mature gardens, especially where they can find their favourite food - acorns.
Birdwatchers can also attract these shy birds by providing suet, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.
Adult and Juvenile Great Spotted Woodpecker
22cm to 23cm
34cm to 39cm
B Whyte, XC560495. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/560495.
Michał Jezierski, XC625182. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/625182.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker (Dendrocopos major) is a common woodland bird from Wales, England, and southern Scotland.
These black, white, and red birds often visit mature gardens where they will readily feed from bird feeders offering fat balls, peanuts, and sunflower seeds.
The Great Spotted Woodpecker is a truly eye-catching bird as it scrambles along the trunks of trees and moves between perches with its characteristic dipping flight.
One of three woodpecker species in the UK, this species is larger and more common than the Lesser Spotted Woodpecker.
Collared Dove preening feathers
Collared Dove in flight
Collared Dove drinking water
A pair of Collared Doves
Collared Dove perched on a branch
Eurasian Collared Dove song
Albert Noorlander, XC646069. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/646069.
The Collared Dove (Streptopelia decaocto) is a relative newcomer to the United Kingdom, first colonising the country in the mid-1900s.
Today, these common birds are a familiar species in gardens almost everywhere except the Highlands of Scotland.
These soft-grey coloured doves have a distinctive black band that surrounds the back half of their neck.
Collared Doves will forage for seeds and buds together with other ground feeders like Woodpigeons, and they often build their flimsy twig nests in gardens and urban areas.
European Green Woodpecker perched on a branch
European Green Woodpecker looking out of the nest in a tree
European Green Woodpecker digging in ants nest
European Green Woodpecker in flight
Close up of a European Green Woodpecker
30cm to 34cm
40cm to 42cm
180g to 220g
European Green Woodpecker Call
Mathias Götz, XC665473. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/665473.
The Green Woodpecker (Picus viridis) is a large species with an unmistakable green back and red cap.
These impressive birds are specialist ant-eaters, but that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy sightings in your very own garden.
European Green Woodpeckers occur across most of Wales and England but are absent from Northern Ireland and most of Scotland.
They are ground feeders that often search for ants on lawns. A healthy lawn in an established garden could certainly attract one of these shy birds.
Simon Elliott, XC604997. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/604997.
The Jackdaw (Corvus monedula) is a small crow species with piercing pale blue eyes and a black face. The rest of their body is a dark grey shade.
These adaptable corvids are common in many habitats, including gardens across the United Kingdom.
The Jackdaw will readily visit bird tables, and they are small enough to feed from hanging bird feeders. These fascinating birds also nest in buildings and trees in established gardens.
Jackdaws are resident in the United Kingdom, and you can enjoy sightings throughout the year.
Goldcrest from behind
Close up of a Goldcrests face
Goldcrest on a tree branch
Goldcrest with chick
Goldcrest Song / Call
Marcin Urbański, XC639558. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/639558.
The Goldcrest (Regulus regulus) is the UK's smallest bird and a lovely species to observe in your own garden.
These tiny birds weigh just six grams or less and are named for their black and yellow crowns.
The Goldcrest is a short-lived species, common all over the UK. Attract these birds in the winter by providing small morsels of mild cheese, suet, or mealworms.
Bullfinch eating berries
Bullfinch in flight
14.5cm to 16.5cm
22cm to 26cm
21g to 27g
Simon Elliott, XC602105. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/602105.
The Bullfinch (Pyrrhula pyrrhula) is a robust finch species with a heavy bill for crushing seeds.
Males have fiery red bellies and grey backs, while females have brown backs and greyish underparts.
Unfortunately, the Bullfinch is on the UK’s amber list due to declines in the late 1900s.
These beautiful finches are not the commonest of garden birds, but they can be attracted by providing a clean source of water, and a quality bird seed mix.
Garden birds do not fall into any scientific classification but rather comprise a collection of generally small to medium-sized species that frequent gardens.
Established gardens with a variety of plants provide wonderful habitats for many bird species, particularly those that are naturally adapted to life in woodlands.
Birds are naturally attracted to environments where they can find food, water, and shelter. Landscaping your garden to attract birds is an excellent way to create a haven for local birdlife, but you don’t necessarily have to go to extremes.
Simply providing fresh, healthy food sources such as seeds, nuts, fruit, mealworms, and fat balls will attract a great variety of garden bird species. A regularly cleaned birdbath or water feature is another effective way to attract more feathered friends.
Blue tit and Great tit eating peanuts from a bird feeder
Different birds prefer different food sources, so it would be difficult to pick the single best food for British and Irish garden birds. If you were to choose just one, a quality wild bird seed mix would be a good choice. Many birds will feed on seeds, including finches, doves, sparrows and tits.
Of course, there are many other great food sources to attract wild birds to your garden. Try the following food types to attract an even greater variety of garden birds:
The House Sparrow is the most common garden bird in the UK, with over 1.7 million individuals counted in 2022. Despite their abundance, these birds are in decline, so welcome them to your garden by creating a bird-friendly environment for these familiar birds to enjoy.
House Sparrows are the most common bird spotted in UK gardens
The Wood Pigeon is the biggest common bird species in most UK gardens. However, larger species such as Carrion Crows, Buzzards, Sparrowhawks, Red Kites, and even Mallards may visit your garden, especially if you live in a rural area and have a large garden with suitable habitat.
The largest, most common garden bird species in the UK, the Woodpigeon
The UK's smallest garden bird is the enchanting little Goldcrest. They share the title of Britain’s smallest bird with the similar (but rarer) Firecrest.
The smallest garden bird species in the UK, the Goldcrest
Of the over 600 bird species recorded in the UK, twenty to thirty are common in gardens. The diversity of species varies depending on where you live and the quality of the surrounding habitats.
However, watching the skies above your home will reveal many more bird species, particularly in the mornings and evenings, as birds leave and return to their evening roosts.
Practically all the bird species that regularly visit UK gardens are native to the country.
The only common exceptions are Feral Pigeons, which descend from the wild Rock Dove that is indeed native to Scotland and Ireland, and the Ring-necked Parakeet, which has become feral in the Southeast.
All wild bird species in the UK are protected by law (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981). This protection includes their young, eggs, and even nests. Consider the consequences for garden birds before doing any major work in your garden or renovations on your home.
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