Birds come in every colour, from electric blues to verdant greens and deep reds. There are thousands of species of yellow birds across the world, and the UK is home to around 14 species that are predominantly yellow.
The UK’s yellow birds range from the tiny, rare Cirl bunting to the regal Golden pheasant and many others besides. You’ll probably spot some of these birds in back gardens and local parks, whereas others are rare sightings that you’d be lucky to see.
This is a guide to all the yellow birds you’re likely to see in the UK!
The birds below are have a mostly yellow plumage.
16cm to 16.5cm
23cm to 29.5cm
25g to 36g
Samuel Jones, XC568308. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/568308.
The Yellowhammer is a strikingly yellow bird from the bunting family, which contains 45 other species. Their bright yellow heads and streaky yellow body makes them pretty easy to spot.
Yellowhammers are widespread throughout their Eurasian range, spreading from the UK and Ireland to central Russia, Mongolia and the Middle East. Yellowhammers often perch on hedgerows and small trees and have a melodic song that is especially prominent in the breeding season.
While common in the UK, Yellowhammers are a Red List bird due to recent population decline. For example, the Northern Irish Yellowhammer population has decreased by 65% since 1991.
They can be found in much of England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland but are largely absent from upland areas. There are approximately 700,000 breeding pairs.
A medium-small bird, though relatively large for a bunting. Yellowhammers measure 16 to 16.5cm long with a wingspan of 23 to 29.5cm.
They weigh around 25 to 36g. Both males and females are similar, but males have brighter yellow plumage and greater contrast in their colouration. Yellowhammers are yellow on their head, chest and underside, with browner wings.
Stuart Fisher, XC29756. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/29756.
The Great tit - as the name suggests - is a large tit - the largest in the UK! This colourful bird counts as “yellow” thanks to its bright yellow breast and upper back. A sociable and brave bird, the Great tit often appears in gardens and public spaces, including in inner city areas. However, great tits are quite aggressive compared to similarly sized birds and are often seen chasing other birds from the bird table!
The Great tit is common and currently unthreatened, with over 2.5 million breeding pairs distributed throughout the UK. They’re common throughout almost the entirety of the UK and Ireland, except for the Scottish Uplands and Scottish Islands.
The global Great tit population is concentrated in Central, Northern and Western Europe.
Great tits measure 14cm long with a wingspan of 24cm and weight around 18g. The male and female look very similar, though the female is marginally duller.
A bright and bold bird, the Great tit has a dark head with a white cheek patch, a stripe intercepting its yellow chest, a yellow back, and blue-grey wings. They’re certainly colourful and bold and are easy to spot once you’ve positively identified them a few times.
20cm to 23cm
12g to 18g
Siskin Adult Song
Shaun Micklewright, XC625024. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/625024.
Of the finch family, Siskins are lively birds found predominantly in Scotland or Wales, where migrants from Scandinavia bolster the UK’s winter population.
Siskins are relatively numerous, with around 400,000 breeding pairs. They prefer deep forests and woodlands and are commonly mistaken for greenfinches, though they’re much more yellow on the whole.
These sociable birds are quite brave and often maraud garden bird feeders in their social units. They’re trustworthy around humans and may feed from the hand.
Siskins are small finches, measuring around 11 to 12.5 centimetres, with a wingspan of 20 to 23 centimetres. They weigh between 10 to 18 grams. They’re predominantly yellow of streaked yellow plumage and a yellow breast. The males are brighter than the females. They’re considerably more yellow than the greenfinch, with whom they’re often confused.
18cm to 19cm
25cm to 27cm
14g to 22g
Grey Wagtail call
ławomir Karpicki-Ignatowski, XC646859. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/646859.
The misleadingly named Grey wagtail is probably more yellow than grey! A member of the pipit and wagtail family, this slim bird of the open countryside was once much more abundant up and down the UK. The current population is around 38,000 pairs, and the bird is on the Amber List.
Wagtails earned their name by seemingly wagging their tail as they forage for insects on the ground. They’re generally migratory, but most of the UK’s populations are year-round residents. Some populations in Scotland migrate during the winter, however. You’re most likely to spot one near rivers in hilly regions of Wales, England and Scotland. They’re scarce in central England.
The Grey wagtail measures 18 to 19cm with a wingspan of 25 to 27cm. They weigh around 14 to 22g. The male and female as similar, though the male has more defined wing tips and facial markings.
The Grey wagtail is similar to the Yellow wagtail but has a slimmer shape and a distinctive ash-grey back. They have long tails which wag when the bird forages on the ground.
23cm to 27cm
16g to 22g
David Pennington, XC587683. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/587683.
The Yellow wagtail is less common than the Grey wagtail, and only visits the UK in the summer. In the winter, Yellow wagtails migrate across Western and Central Europe towards the Mediterranean and Africa, and you’re most likely to see one between April to October.
This reasonably rare bird is only present in eastern England, eastern Wales and southern Scotland. Yellow wagtails prefer the open countryside, especially agricultural land with grazing cattle. However, due to habitat loss and declining numbers, they’re currently on the conservation Red List. There are around 15,000 breeding pairs - less than half that of the Grey wagtail.
The Yellow wagtail measures 17cm long with a wingspan of around 23 to 27cm. They weigh approximately 16 to 22g. Thanks to their yellow-brown back, they’re more yellow than the Grey wagtail.
The breast and underside is a lemon yellow. Like other wagtails, Yellow wagtails have long tails that tend to wag back and forth while they forage across the ground.
22cm to 25.5cm
21g to 27g
Cirl Bunting Song / Call
Loan Delpit, XC566700. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/566700.
The Cirl bunting is related to the Yellowhammer of the same family. These small and charming birds were once common across England but are now confined to a relatively small area between Plymouth and Exeter in South Devon.
The UK’s Cirl bunting population was dangerously close to being lost completely, but conservation efforts have helped numbers pick up. Still, they remain on the conservation Red List with just 1,000 or so estimated breeding pairs.
This sweet bird is a favourite amongst the UK’s birdwatching population. Two popular spots for sighting them include the Exminster and Powderham Marshes and Labrador Bay. Breeding pairs have now been recorded in Cornwall.
The Cirl bunting measures 15.5cm long with a wingspan of 22 to 25.5cm. They weigh approximately 21 to 27g.
The male is considerably brighter than the female, with a black chin, eye stripe and crow with yellow stripes across their heads and underparts. The female is duller overall and looks similar to a Yellowhammer.
12cm to 13cm
19.5cm to 24cm
8g to 12g
Another of the UK’s rarer yellow birds, the Wood warbler, is a conservation Red List species with a population of just 6,500 individual males (data on breeding pairs is lacking). The Wood warbler is predominantly a summer visitor to the UK, heading to Africa in winter. Like other warblers, they have a rich and melodic song.
These denizens of deep woodlands are concentrated in various forest pockets across the UK, with the highest concentrations in the oak woodlands of west Wales.
These birds are tough to spot, not just because they’re fairly rare, but because they’re secretive and spend much of their time in the upper parts of the tree canopy.
The Wood warbler shares Red List status with other UK birds whose populations are suffering sustained decline.
A compact and attractive bird, the Wood warbler measures just 12 to 13cm long with a wingspan of 19 to 24cm. They weigh around 8 to 12g. Despite being seemingly tiny, they’re one of the larger warblers. Their upper parts, throat, back and chest are predominantly yellow, with a white underside. They have a black stripe behind the eye and black wing tips.
44cm to 47cm
56g to 79g
Golden Oriole call
Sergio Mazzotti, XC575829. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/575829.
The stunning Golden oriole lives up to the namesake courtesy of its deep, yellow-gold plumage. You’d think this bird would be easy to spot, but it’s known for being incredibly secretive and often hides away in the upper canopies of dense woodland.
Moreover, there are just 85 or so Golden orioles in the UK each year, which pass through briefly on their migratory journey from Scandinavia to Africa. Golden orioles once bred in the UK but are becoming endangered across their Western European range.
Most sightings occur on England's south and east coasts, including RSPB's Lakenheath reserve in Suffolk.
If you want to spot a Golden oriole, it’s essential to learn its call and song. The call is a screechy jay-like rasp, but the song is much more melodic with a flute-like roll of smooth notes.
The male Golden oriole is extremely deep and vivid yellow, with a black eye stripe, black upper wings, and tail feathers.
The female is comparatively dull, though still predominantly yellow. Orioles belong to the blackbird family, and their sleek thrush-like form is similar to that of a blackbird.
60cm to 115cm
65cm to 75cm
550g to 710g
Golden Pheasant Song
Zeidler Roland, XC399516. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/399516.
One of the UK’s most ornate birds, the grandiose Golden pheasant is rare across its former strongholds in Tresco, Scilly, Breckland, Suffolk and Brownsea Island in Dorset. Another population near Sandringham, west Norfolk, is also reportedly dwindling.
The UK population was first introduced in 1845 and supplemented to keep numbers up, though populations have never truly stabilised.
This colourful bird is native to mountainous China but was introduced to a huge range of countries as a gamebird. European populations are tiny, but the bird isn’t considered globally threatened.
You’d be lucky to post a Golden pheasant in the UK these days. There are an estimated 50 to 100 pairs, but this is considered optimistic.
Golden pheasants are large, measuring 100 to 115cm long with a wingspan of 65 to 75cm. They weigh around 550 to 710g.
If you’re lucky enough to spot a male Golden pheasant, you will not likely forget the encounter!
These ornate birds are typically pheasant-like with long tails and striking plumage but are adorned in golden-yellow plumage that covers the head and back, with a fire-red breast, yellow neck and golden spotted tail. They also have iridescent blue patches across the sides of their necks.
The females are much more modest with predominantly brown plumage, though it still has a long tail.
The following birds are yellow-ish or have yellow colouration to parts of their bodies.
Eurasian Blue Tit Call / Song
Manceau Lionel, XC646473. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/646473.
The colourful Blue tit is one of the most common and well-known birds in the UK. There are over 3.5 million resident pairs in the UK, with some 15 million winter visitors. They’re common throughout most of the UK and Ireland, though they are lacking in the Scottish Uplands.
Blue tits frequent garden bird feeders alone or in small groups. They’re generally agreeable birds that aren’t overly aggressive to others.
Blue tits are unmistakable, courtesy of their blue and yellow plumage. While they’re not a yellow bird - as they’re decidedly blue - their yellow breast, chest and neck act as an ideal contrast for their blue backs, wings and white faces with a black stripe.
13cm to 16cm
5g to 7g
Common Firecrest Song
Paul Donald, XC549494. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/549494.
The UK’s smallest bird, the Firecrest, has a distinct red and yellow mohawk-like crest. With just 500 pairs or so distributed across east and southern England, the Firecrest is an elusive spot despite its vivid colouration. These small birds don’t have a stronghold as such, and sightings seem to occur at random.
The UK’s tiny breeding population is joined by winter visitors and migrating birds on their way to other parts of Europe. Despite its rarity, the Firecrest is on the conservation Green List.
Alongside the Goldcrest, the Firecrest is UK’s smallest bird, measuring a minuscule 9cm long with a wingspan of 13 to 16cm. It weighs just 5 to 7g - less than a £1 coin!
Firecrests are colourful, with a green back, white stomach and black and white eye stripe. Their crest is yellow with a black stripe and bright orange centre for the males.
Goldcrest Song / Call
Marcin Urbański, XC639558. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/639558.
The Goldcrest is considerably more common than the related Firecrest, with some 610,000 breeding pairs. You’re most likely to see one across the dunes and coastal woodlands of England’s east coast, where many stop on their migratory journeys from Scandinavia.
This tiny bird is closely matched with the Firecrest, but they do differ. The Goldcrest’s only yellow component is a yellow stripe across its head. Otherwise, it's mainly green with black and white stripes across some of its body, wings and tail. It’s almost identically sized to the tiny Firecrest.
21cm to 25.5cm
14g to 19g
Alexander Henderson, XC468562. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/468562.
The European goldfinch carduelis subspecies is one of the most common small birds in the UK and has a distinctive red face and black and yellow wings.
These bright finches are most common in central and southern England. They’re easily recognisable, social, and are predominantly herbivorous, consuming mostly seeds.
There are around 1.5 to 1.7 million goldfinches in the UK.
The compact European goldfinch measures 12 to 13cm long with a wingspan of around 21 to 25cm. They weigh around 14 to 19g. Black and golden yellow striped wings qualify them as a part-yellow bird, which combines with their colourful red face to make a striking bird.
Calum Mckellar, XC614194. Accessible at www.xeno-canto.org/614194.
Marginally less common than the goldfinch, the greenfinch is very common throughout the UK, with some 1 to 1.5 million pairs. Nevertheless, rapid population decline has placed this bird on the conservation Red List.
Greenfinches are around 15cm long and have a wingspan of 24.5 to 27.5cm. They weigh approximately 28g. Their only discernibly yellow component is the yellow flash across their wings. Other than that, they’re predominantly light green.
The most common yellow bird in the UK is the Great Tit, followed by the Yellowhammer and then by the Siskin.
The largest yellow bird in the UK is the Golden Pheasant, although they're extremely rare. Another rare bird in second place in terms of size is the Golden Oriole, which is a similar sort of size to a Blackbird.
The smallest yellow bird in the UK is the Firecrest, although only a small part of their plumage is yellow.
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