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Buckland Court

Cotswolds, England

British garden birds to spot this winter

Posted by Luci Ackers on Jan 24, 2017
British garden birds to spot this winter

With the colder months we may be less inclined to get out and about in our gardens. But don't be put off. Our lawns are still teeming with wildlife and the birds are going to need you more than ever. Make sure you're topping up those feeders and keeping water baths ice free. They'll thank you for it!

So what are you looking for? Here are the big seven:

1. Robin

One of the most easily recognisable birds in our gardens has got to be the robin. Nicknamed 'robin redbreast' this little bird is famous for its striking reddy-orange breast feathers. These birds are often synonymous with winter because they seem to be more prevalent during the colder months and over Christmas. The truth is that we receive a lot of migratory robins from Scandinavia, flying down to join our native birds. These ones tend to be slightly paler and slightly less tame.

The robin will eat insects if it can get hold of them, but will also love the fine seeds and fruits you put out on bird tables such as millet and sunflower seeds.

2. Blue tit

The blue tit is another distinguishable bird with its blue cap and wings and vivid yellow breast. They are a flash of colour in your garden trees and on bird tables. A stockier bird than the robin, these birds tend to be more sociable and in winter they will come looking for food in family groups, and even sometimes gather with other tits on bird feeders.

3. Great tit

Great tits have a black cap and collar. They can often be confused for blue tits if they're fast, but they generally tend to be slightly larger. They also have a very distinctive call: two-syllable and high pitched. They can be more aggressive than their smaller relatives and you may catch them chasing other, smaller birds away.

4. Goldfinch

The bright red face and golden wing bar is what gives the goldfinch away. Though some of them do migrate southwards in the winter months, there should still be a number of them appearing in our gardens, especially if there are plenty of seeds around. The goldfinch has a pretty twittering song.

If you really want to impress the goldfinches, invest in some black nyjer seeds – they love them! The seeds have a high oil content, which is really good for them, though you will need a special type of feeder to put them in.

5. Blackbird

The blackbird is one of our most common garden birds. The male is black with a bright orange beak while the female is brown with a more dull-coloured beak. They're longer than the finches and slenderer than the tits. You'll often see them eating off the ground, hopping around lawns and tilting their heads to listen for food. Their call is a recognisable one, melodic and light.

They're less likely to eat the seeds on the tables and more likely to hunt for live food and berries. They'll still need water though and a lot puddles and birdbaths will be frozen over this time of year, so do keep yours topped up. If they're not finding much on the ground you could try putting down flaked maize for them.

6. Collared dove

Doves are a pale pinky-grey with a black collar. Usually spotted in pairs, doves can become quite territorial and it isn't unusual to see the male chasing off other unwelcome males or even their own matured offspring. If they know there is always food around a pair of collared doves can become quite tame in their chosen garden. You will recognise their monotonous cooing as they call to each other from trees and roofs.

7. Wren

The wren is one of the UK's smallest birds. It is very round in appearance; dumpy, brown and fast. It has rounded wings and a short tale, so if you catch a glimpse of one flitting around the undergrowth or trunk of a tree, you could easily mistake it for a mouse. Like the blackbird, wrens are more interested in live food, preferring to forage for insects and spiders, however you could try them on mild grated cheese too!

What type of food to use?

A brilliant way to help our garden bird species is to provide for them with bird tables, hanging feeders and bird baths.

It's great to get a good mix of seeds so you can please as many species as possible. Try to pick one with flaked maize, sunflower seeds (for the tits and robins), millet (for finches and doves), pinhead oatmeal and black sunflower seeds. Mealworms are good for tits and robins, and fat balls are great in the winter because they really help birds bulk up.

Remember that we love seeing and hearing about all that you've seen on site! If you have any photos of the wildlife out there, why not post it up on our Facebook wall with the hashtag #BondGoesWild? Find a link to our Facebook page under the menu on the left of the page.

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Luci Ackers
Author: Luci Ackers

Luci loves getting out and about for a good cycle ride or easy-going walks in the countryside, and thoroughly enjoyed the time she previously spent working for the National Trust. Her love of writing started from a young age and on rainy days nothing beats curling up in a secret corner with a good book.

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