Identify garden birds

How to identify common garden birds

Fergus Gill/2020VISION

What are ‘garden birds’?

‘Garden birds’ are any species of bird that visit our gardens for food and shelter on a regular basis. Every garden attracts a different set of birds depending on the plants, trees and shrubs present, whether extra food is provided, what water sources there are, and what the surrounding habitats are like. 

Why are gardens important for birds?

Over recent years, numbers of our once-common birds have dropped dramatically in the wake of increased development, intensification of farming, and habitat loss. For example, house sparrows have decreased by a massive 71%. But garden birds do have a lifeline. Together, the 16 million gardens across the UK form an area for wildlife larger than all our National Nature Reserves. This patchwork of habitats helps our wildlife to move about freely, forming a vast living landscape that links urban green spaces with the wider countryside. Encouraging birds to visit your garden is easy and a great way to help! 

Which birds am I likely to see in my garden?

Typically, males are more distinguishable than females. Click through to browse the species pages for more details about these birds. The UK's 10 most common garden visitors are:

House sparrow

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

House sparrow

Males (pictured) are streaky brown above and grey below, with chestnut-and-white wings, a black bib and a grey cap. Females and juveniles are duller.

Starling perched at a feeder, The Wildlife Trusts

© Ian Rose

Starling

Adults (pictured) are oily-black with a purple-and-green sheen, and tiny, beige spots in winter. Juveniles are dark grey-brown.

Blue tit

©Dave Kilbey

Blue tit

Greeny-blue above and yellow below, with a blue cap, white cheeks, black eyestripes, and a blue tail and wings.

Blackbird

©Mark Hamblin/2020VISION

Blackbird

Males (pictured) are black with a yellow bill and yellow ring around the eye. Females and juveniles are dark brown.

Woodpigeon

©Gillian Day

Woodpigeon

Grey above, with a pink breast, white neck patch and white patches on the wings.

Goldfinch

©Neil Aldridge

Goldfinch

Gingery-brown above and pale below, with black-and-yellow wings, a black crown, white cheeks and a red face.

Chaffinch male

©Bob Coyle

Chaffinch

Males have blue-grey crowns, brown backs and pink breasts. Females are brown, with white shoulder patches and wingbars.

Great tit

©Bob Coyle

Great tit

Green above and yellow below, with a black head, white cheeks, and black stripe down its breast.

Robin in snow - Stewart McDonald

Stewart McDonald

Robin

Brown above, with a white belly and red breast. Juveniles are mottled gold and brown.

Long-tailed tit

©Jon Hawkins

Long-tailed tit

Black, white and pink above, and pale pink below, with a long, black-and-white tail, a white head, and a broad, black stripe above the eye.

Other species that visit gardens include carrion crows, magpies, jackdaws, collared doves, dunnocks, wrens, song thrushes, greenfinches, coal tits, swifts, house martins, and green and great spotted woodpeckers. Find out more about these birds on our species explorer.

Which rarer birds might visit?

If you live close to countryside, you might find traditional farmland or woodland species visiting, particularly in winter when food is scarce. Look out for chiffchaffs, siskins, yellowhammers, bullfinches, nuthatches, treecreepers, lesser redpolls, tawny owls, sparrowhawks, jays, cuckoos, mistle thrushes, blackcaps, goldcrests and pied flycatchers. Winter garden visitors may also include migrant bramblings, waxwings, redwings and fieldfares. If you have a pond in the garden, you might find herons and other waterbirds popping in.

How can I encourage birds to visit my garden?

Whether you have a small, city patch or acres of fields, you can encourage birds to visit your garden:

  • Put out suitable food on a birdtable and in feeders – even one that sticks to a window will do the trick!
  • Birds eat different things: try seeds for sparrows and finches, fat balls for tits, and fruit and worms for thrushes and robins. As long as it’s not mouldy, you can also pop out leftovers like fruit cake, unsalted nuts, and over-ripe apples and pears
  • The amount of food you need to supply will vary depending on the season and weather; try to put out only what will get eaten, so there’s nothing left to go off
  • Don’t forget to provide fresh water (in saucer or even bin lid will do) as well, and make sure you clean feeders and tables regularly to avoid disease
  • Provide places for birds to nest and rest safely by planting native trees and shrubs, or putting up nest boxes

How can I help birds?

The Wildlife Trusts manage many nature reserves for the benefit of all kinds of birds. By volunteering for your local Trust, you can help too!

Volunteer

Wildlife gardening

Facts and tips to encourage wildlife into your garden

Learn more

©Neil Aldridge

Vine House Farm Bird Food

Vine House Farm is an award-winning wildlife-friendly farm, which gives 4% of all its takings from the sale of bird food, feeders, birdtables, baths and nest boxes to The Wildlife Trusts.

Feed the birds

Ben Hall/2020VISION