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Common Garden Bird Species To Watch Out For In The South of England
Feeding Wild Birds Is Rewarding
I love watching wild birds flying to and from the bird table, bath and feeders in my garden. There is something very satisfying about knowing you are helping wildlife out - especially in the cold winters, where naturally occurring food sources are scarce and it becomes a real struggle for the birds to find food.
By providing seed, nuts and water (and if your garden has enough foliage), you will definitely get a variety of bird species flocking to your yard. Here are several bird species that come to the garden of my family home (now my mothers house since I moved out).
I just adore Goldfinches and think of them as a true celebration of wild birds; with their beautiful golden bodies, red and black faces with white splashes and their sweet, twittering song.
It is no wonder they are such a popular wild bird with humans because of their colours and calls, but they are also great to have around as weed control, as seeds from thistles and other less popular plants make up a large part of goldfinches diets. Their long, slim beaks are the perfect design for extracting seeds from these plants without the bird getting hurt by the plants thorns.
Goldfinches are small birds which migrate South in winter – in fact, they have been known to migrate as far as Spain. They are common visitors to bird tables and feeders, and their seeds of choice are niger seed and sunflower hearts.
Goldfinches are not a rare species, and are widespread throughout the UK. They build egg-shaped nests from moss, lichen and grass, which they then line with natural fibres such as sheep’s wool. The females build their nests in late April, and then lay between 3 and 7 eggs which take just under two weeks to incubate. The babies fledge the nest by the time they are 18 days old.
Choose A Good Seed Feeder
Do You Feed Birds In Your Garden?
This species of pigeon is not as easy on the eyes as some of the other residents, but I felt I should include it because it is one of the most commonly sighted members of the dove and pigeon family in my garden and in the whole of England.
Wood pigeons are large, docile birds - often approachable in cities but shy in their natural environment. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds estimates that there are currently around 5,400,000 breeding pairs in the wild, and I guess that one of the reasons they are doing so well is because of the way they integrate themselves with humans.
Wood pigeons are well known for their cooing call, which you will nearly always hear in woodland or in gardens situated in rural areas. They are often considered pests by farmers and gardeners, because they are very fond of crops such as peas and cabbages, though they also eat a wide range of seeds, and will often be found picking up from the floor what other birds have dropped from the feeders.
Birds of prey such as peregrine falcons are the main predators of wood pigeons, and while humans hunt pigeons for fun in the countryside believing it to be a harmless sport due to the population of this species, in actual fact, many other species depend on wood pigeons as their main prey species. Also, wood pigeons are great at clearing up any crumbs or leftovers from feeders, making rats and mice less likely.
Wood pigeons build their nests from twigs and lay two white eggs, which are then incubated for 17-19 days. The chicks fledge the nest at around 35 days old, but will often stay with their parent or around their nest for much longer.
So-called for the black “collar” around it’s neck, the collared dove is another very common species, with around 298,000 breeding pairs recorded in the UK in 2008. They are much more slender then the previously mentioned ‘tank’, known as the wood pigeon.
This species is another very successful one, due to a readily available food supply. The nests are built simply, with twigs being the prime material used, and the female lays two White eggs which hatch after around 17 days incubation. Although this information is very similar to that of the wood pigeon (which is no surprise as they are in the same family), the young of collared doves fledge the nest at around 20 days old and are usually independent from then on.
Great tits are beautiful, tiny birds that have yellow-green bodies, yellow bellies, a white face and a black cap from their heads and necks which runs into a single black stripe down their chests. They have adapted brilliantly to human habitats and do brilliantly in gardens where they will feed on grubs, berries and seed.
They will often be seen with other small species of flock birds in the winter, such as blue tits and coal tits, and the large flock of multiple species will roam together in search of food. Though in the summer, great tits are often observed fighting off other small birds that come near the feeder.
Great tits are common and widespread throughout Europe, and love to nest in nesting boxes humans have provided. The perfect nest box should have a 28mm hole, a clear flight path and should be between 1 and 5 meters off the ground so that no predators threaten the chicks.
Nesting begins any time between March and July, with the females using small twigs to build their nest, which will then be lined with moss or wool after which she will set about laying 7-9 small, speckled eggs. These eggs will be incubated for around 15 days.
The chicks fledge any time after they have reached 18 days old, but will usually have all left the nest by the time they are 21 days old.
Birdbaths Are Important In Summer
Blue tits are tiny birds known for travelling in large groups and mixing with other small bird species in winter in order to search for food sources more effectively. It is also thought that they flock together in large groups for safety and a better chance of surviving predators. Blue tits are a fairly common sight, especially in parks, hedgerows and gardens and are unmistakeable due to their bright yellow and blue feathering and flitting movements. I often see at least 5 of these sweet little birds visiting our feeder, and they are always a joy to watch.
I was surprised to find out that even though blue tits are a small species, they are known to have amazingly large broods, with up to 16 eggs being possible, but a clutch of 8-12 eggs being more common. We have a few nest boxes in the garden and the blue tits were the first to move in last year, with 10 little babies finally emerging. We were so proud!
These small birds are probably the least colourful within their family, but I'm still fond of them.
They are very widespread in the United Kingdom and you can see them pretty much everywhere you go other than the north and west of Scotland.
Their main diet is made up of seeds, nuts and insects.
Long Tailed Tit
Long tailed tits mostly eat insects, although they will also eat some seeds when food is scarce. I am particularly fond of these birds because of their fat, fluffy, round bodies and very long tails.
In winter they flock with other small birds. I guess there are lots of perks for them living in groups in the colder weather - safety as there is a shorter period of daylight and warmth.
Bird Tables Are Great For Bitd-Watching
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker
With just 1000-2000 breeding pairs of lesser spotted woodpecker in Great Britain, we felt really lucky to have a male and female visiting our garden regularly. We heard their call long before we actually saw the woodpeckers; a drumming “kick”ing sound, which is very similar to the more common greater spotted woodpecker.
Lesser spotted woodpeckers are extremely shy birds, which will often avoid coming anywhere near humans, sticking to wooded areas or remote places. They are predominantly white and black, with some red markings – a splash on the tail and a red cap on the head. Their main food source is insects and spiders, which makes them harder to spot as they won’t come to feeders.
They nest very high up in trees, out of the reach of most predators and will lay around 5 eggs, but are capable of laying up to 8. It is thought that a loss of habitat is what is impacting the species and causing their decline, which has become so severe the species is now listed as a red status species, and the RSPB is doing what they can to conserve the precious few birds left.
Decorative Bird Feeder
Jackdaws are extremely common in the United Kingdom and are often seen in huge groups which include other members of the Corvidae family such as Rooks and Carrion crows. You can tell them apart from other crows by their distinctive, silver colour which you can see at the back of their head.
Like the carrion crow, jackdaws are often seen eating roadkill, but they also eat insects, scraps, seeds and other birds eggs or young chicks, which have not yet fledged the nest.
In terms of nesting, jackdaws aren’t exactly fussy and will happily take over the nests of other, larger birds. They will nest high or low, but generally are seen in twig nests in trees. They typically have just one clutch of between 4 and 6 eggs, which are incubated for about 17 days. Jackdaw babies fledge the nest at around 25 days old.
We see Jackdaws all the time in our garden, but they aren't one of my favourites as they eat baby birds from other nesting sites. This has occasionally caused me to run outside to shake something at them to ward them off when the get too close to another birds nest. Makes me come across as slightly eccentric, but the smaller birds appreciate it... I think...
Although they appear to just be black and white at first, the black feathers of magpies can shimmer blue-purple in the right light.
It is a popular urban myth that magpies love shiny objects and are probe to stealing or collecting watches, jewellery and other items that may attract their attention. Recently, however, it was proven that this really was just a myth and there wasn't any truth in it.
Magpies are another common species in the UK, but that doesn't make them any less welcome.
Did you know that a large number of crows is referred to as a "murder"? This is probably because crows are generally thought of as abad omen or even witches familiars.
A crow's diet largely consists of carrion such as road kill and so I like to think of them as nature's "janitors".
Robins are probably one of the most popular birds of Britain and during the Christmas season you can find them on pretty much every single postcard, Christmas card and poster displayed in shops and in people's homes.
The red breast which so clearly marks them out is present in both males and females, but not in the young, which are just brown.
Robins are extremely territorial and aggressive towards one another - occasionally causing injury or even death seeing off a rival male.
I have only spotted this tiny little bird twice but I'm so excited that we have a firecrest around who occasionally graces us with his presence.
They are only found in southeast England and are currently listed by the RSPB as an 'amber status' species which means they are uncommon.
Bullfinches are another amber species, but are not restricted to one area of the UK - in fact they are widespread throughout apart from northern and western Scotland.
We get pheasants galore in our garden - in fact last year I stumbled upon (not literally), a nesting female. As we have dogs and cats who are free to roam the garden and pheasants make their nests on the ground we carefully sectioned off that part of the garden so she would be safe from our cats (the dogs are too laid back to even think about hurting a bird).
With about 2.3 million female pheasants in the UK, they are far from struggling but then again they have a tendency to run in front of cars which may mean they have a harder time staying common. They are also shot for their meat, which is fairly popular in England (at least, it can be found on pub menus in the right season).
We we have three females and two males visiting the garden and they regularly pick up the seeds dropped by the smaller birds. They startle so easily though - you have to creep everywhere when they are nearby.