As roads fell silent and planes were grounded, the sudden shutdown of modern life as we know it has been liberating for British birdlife. Read on for our guide to identifying them.
Have you ever just sat back at your desk, and whilst thinking on which emails warrant a speedy reply or what to cook for dinner, and become accidentally immersed in just listening to and watching garden birds?
With much of the UK now settled into working from home, that most precious of sounds – daily birdsong – suddenly seems louder. The reduction in noise and pollution has already seen an increase in our precious native species, who continue to build nests, forage for food and seek out mates.
Whilst the government’s mission statement has changed to ‘Stay Alert’, and remain at home to safeguard others, we thought a list of Britian’s birds to look out for might be just the thing.
What to do:
A great exercise in reducing anxiety, this is also an enjoyable task for children. Try creating a checklist of species for them to tick off. We have left off some commonly spotted (but no less important!) species such as pigeon, woodpecker and crow, but feel free to add these in.
Let’s start simple. The majestic-looking male blackbird is a common sight in both rural and built-up areas. Easily identifiable, males are handsome chap with jet black feathers and a prominent yellow beak and ring around the eyes. Females are similar in shape and size, but are medium-brown in colour.
Often hailed as pests by country folk, jackdaws are part of the crow/corvid family, made up of birds such as magpies, the common raven and blue jay. Often seen sauntering in gardens, these birds are known to swagger. One of the only birds to have grey eyes or white irises, they use eye-contact to communicate!
Blanketed in superstition, with the famed rhyme, “one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl and four for a boy…” Do you salute single magpies and utter ‘Good morning Mr Magpie’ beneath your breath?
Whether you are superstitious or not, these are birds are commonly seen here in the UK, particularly in the countryside.
Striking-looking thanks to their bold black head and long tail contrasts with a white breast, but if you take a closer look, their wing and tail feathers have an admirable blueish-green tint.
An exotic-looking little bird, the Waxwing is a special sight. They fly over to Britain seeking warmth from chilly Scandinavia, so you are more likely to spot one after a colder winter.
A striking head-piece, nude-tone body feathers and black wings and face give the bird a mystical appearance. Complete with yellow markings on the tips of its wings, these little birds are likely to be found near to where berries and apples are growing.
One of the largest birds you’ll spot in the UK, the common buzzard is a brownish colour with a white speckled breast and face. The most commonly spotted bird of prey has strong legs and fierce-looking talons.
A species to admire, but a true hunter, it feasts on small mammals, birds, earthworms and large insects. Largely found flying over hillsides, farmland, fields and woodland, or even perched on fence posts during warm, sunny weather.
A quintessentially British bird, the house sparrow is a stalwart in many field guides. In spring it swoops in and out of barns, stables and even roofs. An ordinary-looking bird, females and youngsters are pale brown and grey in colour, whilst males have brighter black, white and brown markings running through their feathers.
Noisy little creatures, house sparrows will feed near to people so don’t be surprised if you see one of two in your garden or out on your walk. Once found in every city centre, numbers are now decreasing due to increased traffic, population and pollution.
One of the UK’s most lovely-looking garden birds, they are nevertheless as joyfully a common sight in British gardens. With a deep red face and wings with vibrant strips of rich-yellow, their breast is a mix of white, nude and black.
Unmistakable with its blue head and tail and white face with distinctive blue stripe, this is another of the prettiest of British birds. Supposedly easy to attract to gardens, try hanging a nest box with a hole at the front away from predators such as cats, and it won’t be long before you likely see a blue tit sweep in.
There is always something exciting about spotting birds of vibrant colour and as the name suggests the feathers of these birds are green. Larger than it’s cousin the Goldfinch, males are green all over whilst females are slightly toned down in a more muted green. Often spotted perched singing their song from the branches of trees, aerials and on rooftops. Image sourced here.
The gardener’s friend and muse to many a poet. A tubby little bird with that distinctive reddy-orange breast, face and brown wings and tail, this bird needs little description. The robin’s sweet song often described as ‘liquid silver’.
Medium-sized, starlings are sassy, short tailed and colourful birds, derived from the mockingbird family. Almost glittering with an oil-slicked, iridescent coat, their feathers are made up of an amalgamation of colours, with black feathers and yellow beak.
Often perched on high up on chimney pots, they are curious creatures, who can be heard imitating other bird’s songs and are closely related to the world-famous mimicking bird the mynah.
Famed for their breathtaking grouped flight displays, just before dusk in certain areas of the UK, thousands of starlings gather to perform incredible trance-like dances.
It may surprise you to hear that the tiny wren is one of the UK’s most common birds. A mousy brown with a cocked tail, it is famed for its cheeky character and bold song for its size. Fast fliers, they are likely to be found visiting your garden, or in parks or rural areas.
Our very own pint-sized falcon, a mousy brown smart, compact bird of prey, often spotted soaring around in the sky above roadsides, circling for prey spotted down below. Its hunting tactic is hovering 10-20 metres, above prey, before diving down to strike.
If you’re stuck for things to do as a family or for you personally, take a look at our 30 things to do during lockdown.
Images used within this article sourced from Unsplash, unless stated otherwise.