Window on Wildlife: garden birds

25 January 2021 | Posted in Charlotte Owen , Birds
Window on Wildlife: garden birds
Blue tit @ John Evans

The uplifting role that wildlife plays in our lives has become more vital than ever. We're in the middle of winter, but there are plenty of birds to be seen. This guide will help you identify some of the feathered friends you’re most likely to see - and hear - from home.

Lend a hand: It really helps our garden birds if we feed them - find out more about feeding birds safely in this video. They also need shallow water to drink and bathe in. Remember to keep feeders and bird baths clean. You might also want to think about putting up bird boxes ready for spring. 

Starling ID: Star-studded with a glossy sheen of purple and green 

Song: Chattering rattles, clicks, whistles and warbles. Also a skilled mimic 

Nest in tree holes, cavities and nest boxes. Females in a colony will synchronise egg-laying so that their fledglings emerge together. More here

Starling (c) Mark Robinson

Mark Robinson

Blue Tit ID: The only British tit with blue on its head. Smaller than the Great Tit 

Song: Trilling 'tsee-tsee-tsee'  

Nest is often lined with aromatic mint or lavender as a natural disinfectant. Females lay 8 – 10 eggs and each chick needs to eat 100 caterpillars every day. More here.

Blue tit

Andrew Holloway

Great Tit ID: Large with a black head and chest stripe 

Song: Repetitive two-note ‘teacher-teacher’ sounds like a squeaky bicycle pump 

The chest stripe on the male is an indicator of status: the wider the stripe, the more attractive he is to females. More here.

Great tit AH

Andrew Holloway

Long-tailed Tit ID: Seriously cute with a very long tail, like a ball on a stick 

Song: Bubbly ‘prrrt-prrrt’ and chattering ‘tsirrup’ 

Their barrel-shaped nests are made of moss and cobwebs, covered with lichens for camouflage and lined with hundreds of soft feathers. More here.

Long-tailed Tit (Aegithalos caudatus)

Roger Wilmshurst

Blackbird ID: Males are black with a yellow bill and eye-ring, females are dark brown 

Song: Mellow, whistling tune; ‘chink-chink’ alarm call 

Beautiful blue eggs are laid in nests hidden deep within hedges. Blackbirds may have four broods in a single season. More here.

Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Song Thrush ID: Warm brown with heavily speckled chest, smaller than a blackbird 

Song: Tuneful, repeating a phrase two or three times before moving onto the next. 

May be seen or heard banging snails against a stone anvil. No other bird does this. More here.

Song Thrush in Song©James DuncanSussex Wildlife Trust

James Duncan

Wren ID: Tiny brown bird with a cocked tail. Common yet secretive 

Song: Volume is the key to ID - incredibly loud song with a distinctive trill 

The male builds six to 12 nests but only one is used by the female, who usually rears her young single-handedly. More here

WREN ON HAWTHORN JohnStanton1000

Jon Stanton

Dunnock ID: Like a streaky sparrow. Shy, often hopping low in undergrowth and hedges 

Song: A short jumble of notes thrown together in a hurry. More on their song

Despite strong pair bonds, females often mate with another male. With paternity uncertain, both will supply her chicks with food. 

Dunnock Patrick Smith

Patrick Smith

House Sparrow ID: Males have a grey cap and black bib, females are brown 

Song: Cheerful chirping 

These sociable birds often nest in colonies, usually close to people. Some pairs will manage three broods a year. More here.

House sparrows©Alan Price, Gatehouse StudioSussex Wildlife Trust

Alan Price

Chaffinch ID: Females are browner than the colourful males but both have distinctive white wing bars 

Song: Loud, cheerful, descending song may be repeated up to 3,000 times in a day 

Chaffinches have regional accents, and more than six million pairs breed here in the UK each year. More here.

Chaffinches fightingcjon hawkins surrey hills photographysussex wildlife trust w800h600

Jon Hawkins

Greenfinch ID: olive green with a flash of yellow on the wing, and a chunky beak 

Song: Twittering whistles and warbles with distinctive wheezing ‘zweee’. More here

Sociable but notorious for squabbling. Numbers have dropped due to disease (Trichomonosis) that can spread at feeding stations, so it’s important to keep feeders clean

Greenfinch © Neil Fletcher

Neil Fletcher

Goldfinch ID: Striking red face and bright yellow wing feathers 

Song: Liquid, tinkling twitter 

A group of goldfinches is called a charm, and they flock in large numbers outside the breeding season. More here.

Goldfinch © Roger Wilmshurst

Roger Wilmshurst


  • Carmel Boucher:

    28 Jan 2021 18:45:00

    This is lovely recap of all the wonderful birds we see in woodlands and hedges daily. Great to get some clarity on species many thanks. Carmel

  • Carmel Boucher:

    28 Jan 2021 23:06:00

    This is lovely recap of all the wonderful birds we see in woodlands and hedges daily. Great to get some clarity on species many thanks. Carmel

  • Andrew D Cummins:

    29 Jan 2021 11:53:00

    The bird I don’t see much of now is the Chaffinch. We have a lot of sparrows, and I wonder whether they displace the chaffinches. Nuthatches have also been absent from our garden the last two years. Plenty of goldfinches, wrens, tits, jackdaws, magpies, etc..

  • Mark Pritchard:

    29 Jan 2021 12:06:00

    Lovely guide to our regular visitors. We also see Black caps, Dunnocks and a Nuthatch on our feeders here in East Sussex

  • Sue Barker:

    29 Jan 2021 12:22:00

    Wonderful photos of our garden birds

  • Tim Nichols:

    29 Jan 2021 12:58:00

    Love birds but rubbish at identifying. These are great photos and descriptions. May help!

  • Nigel Horn:

    29 Jan 2021 13:30:00

    It’s a very useful guide. The photos are very clear and the text is concise and factual. Thanks: is there a plan to expand this guide to birds other than these?

  • Kate Francis:

    29 Jan 2021 13:39:00

    Very helpful clear photo and descriptions of their songs.
    Brilliant, many thanks

  • June:

    29 Jan 2021 14:32:00

    Really appreciate the notes and photos…and the way you are keeping us in touch

  • Anne Gordon-Johnson:

    29 Jan 2021 14:43:00

    Also have lesser spotted woodpeckers, nuthatch, pheasant, jays,
    .little owl, buzzards.

  • David Hitchcock:

    29 Jan 2021 15:16:00

    The common birds that are missing are Pigeons ( all varieties )

  • Peter Rhodes:

    29 Jan 2021 17:00:00

    This really cheered me up.


  • Beryl Fleming:

    29 Jan 2021 17:16:00

    How can I attract small birds to the balcony of my flat (2nd – and top) floor. Don’t want pigeons, magpies etc. Have a hanging seed feeder -ignored, a stick-on-the=window seed tray also ignored, some fat balls wedged on an iron stick in a flower tub. The big birds can’t get at any of these but the little birds aren’t coming except the fat ball gets nibbled but not when I see it happening. Nest box on the brick wall in a sheltered corner but no takers. Balcony faces south and east, unglazed all round and in good weather in sun all day. Pigeon walks about with interest but can’g get any anything. Any suggestions apart from patience? Should I remove the front of the nest box to encourage robins? Do birds take ages to observe these treats before examining them further? Beryl.

  • Mary Fitzmaurice:

    29 Jan 2021 17:42:00

    Very good and clear descriptions & lovely photos

  • mark mcalister:

    29 Jan 2021 17:52:00

    Thanks v helpful


    29 Jan 2021 18:42:00

    Amazing photos.

  • Gabe Crisp:

    30 Jan 2021 08:32:00

    Beautiful picture of a gold finch in flight. We normally just see a tiny flash of yellow along our river bank in West Sussex so this is a treat.

  • Laurence:

    30 Jan 2021 09:26:00

    Nice overview, interesting to read about the different nest locations. Surprised the robin didn’t make this list! Hearing them sing at the moment is brightening up these days.

  • Rasma:

    30 Jan 2021 12:23:52

    I’m trying to identify a bird that hides in my hedge with a single descending 4 note call. I’ve never caught sight of it and I don’t think it’s a mimic. For the musicians out there — down a minor third, down major second, then down a final minor second so the whole tune creates an augmented fourth!

  • Bernadine Warner:

    30 Jan 2021 16:38:00

    Very useful information. Looking forward to hearing the dawn chorus from some of these lovely birds.

  • Alan:

    31 Jan 2021 10:05:00

    Beautiful photos

  • Graham Manuell:

    03 Feb 2021 14:01:00

    Lovely photos. Really helpful.

  • Graham Preston:

    12 Feb 2021 16:58:00

    Loved the photos and info. The blackbird is still a favourite since they visit our garden regularly to eat berries and give their great bird call.

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