English Garden Birds
If you are wondering what bird you have seen in your garden this page may help. Each year thousands of people spend an hour viewing the birds in their garden and then send the results in to the RSPB (Royal Society for the Protection of Birds) enabling them to draw up a list of the most common garden birds.
Here are the top 10 most seen English garden birds in 2013. The bird species are listed in order of most commonly seen first. If you've seen a bird in your garden there is a fair chance it will be one of these.
All of these bird species are regular visitors to bird tables and between them will eat seed mixes, fat balls and peanuts. If you really want to treat them you can get special softbill mixes which the blackbirds and robins will love, niger seed which is popular with goldfinches and mealworms which most of these species will find very acceptable.
Blackbirds are the most commonly seen English garden birds. The males are a glossy black with striking orange beaks. The females are a dark slightly mottled brown with browny black beaks. You will often see them in pairs probing your lawn for insects and worms.
If you have a bird table blackbirds will often pick up the seed from the ground which has fallen from the table.
Blue tits are one of the bird species which you are likely to see hanging off your peanut feeder if you have one. They prefer to visit and feed in gardens where there is a reasonable amount of tree cover for them to retreat to. If you don't have a feeder look up into your garden trees where they can often be seen feeding on tiny insects amongst the branches.
Blue tits are a bit smaller than great tits and lack the solid black line down their chest. They also have a small blue cap rather than a larger black cap on their head. Males and females look the same.
Chaffinches are the most common finch that you will see in an English garden. Finches have a thick triangular beak. Males chaffinches are really pretty with a red chest and a grey cap. The red starts just above the eyes and ends between their legs, so they have much more red on them than a robin. They have a chestnut, black and white back.
Female chaffinches have a greyish brown chest and cap and brown instead of chestnut on their back. But the black and white marking on their back are the same as on the male.
Great tits are the second most common tit species which you might see in your garden. They are slightly larger than the blue tit. They have a distinctive black stripe running right down their chest and a solid black cap which stops level with their eyes.
Males and females look the same.
Collins is an excellent guide if you want to identify more British birds. I regularly refer to my Collin's guide.
Although house sparrows are still common their numbers have fallen considerably, so it is good to encourage them in your garden. House sparrows are so sociable that they even prefer to nest in adjoining nest boxes. If you see a sparrow in your garden there are likely to be several more nearby.
Male house sparrows have a grey cap, chestnut back and a grey chest with a black bib. Female house sparrows have a brown head and back with grey chest. House sparrows have a thick finch like beak.
Their song is easy to identify. They are the one species of bird that actually goes "cheap cheap cheap"! It is a very tuneless song but quite cute.
Starlings are slightly smaller than a blackbird, they have a similar medium length thin beak and can appear all black from a distance. However a closer look will show you that they actually have white ticking over the black and they can glam iridescent purple and green in the sunlight.
They are easy to recognise because of their behaviour. Unlike blackbirds they like to go about in flocks and if you see a flock of black birds on the telephone or electricity lines they will usually be starlings. During the breeding season the flocks are smaller with perhaps 6 - 20 birds hanging around together. In winter they can form giant superflocks with as many as one million birds. These huge flocks are known as murmurations,
The goldfinch has a bit of a misleading name because the only gold on it is a streak on each wing.
If you look up into a tree and see one singing you will see a whitish/buff chest and a red mask on the face. They have a darker buff back and black and white on the wings as well as the yellow.
During the winter you might see them in little flocks in your garden. During spring and summer they might appear singly or in pairs.
The goldfinch has a finer beak than most other finches and specialise in eating thistle and teasel seeds.
Male and female goldfinches look the same.
The woodpigeon is the largest bird on this list and is quite a lot bigger than a blackbird. It is easy to dismiss woodpigeons as boring grey birds, but they actually have a lovely pinkish chest with a smart patch of green on the back of their neck and a flash of white on the side of their necks.
Male and female woodpigeons look the same. You will usually see them in pairs in your garden wither making a slightly clumsy assault on your bird table or sitting companionably in a tree cooing to each other.
If you hear a bird singing in your garden or under a streetlamp at night it is very unlikely to be a nightingale and much more likely to be a European robin. They have sweet voices, are very territorial and will sometimes even sing in winter just to let other robins know that they are in charge of this space.
The robin's red chest is well known, it extends to two thirds of the way down their front The rest if the front is creamy white. There is a bluish grey line around the red. Their backs are brown Male and female robins are identical to each other. You are most likely to see them singly or in pairs in your garden. Robins never form flocks.
The collared Dove is smaller then a wood pigeon and more uniformly coloured beigey grey. Collared doves will often appear in your garden in pairs and sit on a branch gently cooing away. The individual pictured is a young bird I was hand rearing many years ago. They are not usually so tame as to come in to the house and sit on your music collection!
Adult collared doves have a narrow black neck collar. Males and females are identical.
Collared doves are unusual on this list because they are not native to the UK. They are actually an Asian species of bird which arrived in the UK in the 1950s, probably escaped or released pets. They bred and rapidly spread throughout England. Despite not being native they don't cause any problems and don't seem to have had a negative effect on native wildlife.