Birds sitting on a fence together

Birds liven up gardens all over Britain, flying in and showing off their unique colours and songs throughout the year, but is your garden safe for them? Learn everything you need to know in our Beginner’s Guide to Birds.

We couldn’t talk about garden wildlife if we didn’t talk about birds. We’re very lucky in Britain to have a wide variety of feathered friends visiting us throughout the year, all of whom bring their own one-of-a-kind patterns and birdsongs.

Here are some of the most common British birds you might see, how to recognise them, and a few dos and don’ts for a bird-friendly garden that’ll sing all year long.

10 British birds you might find in your garden:

1) Robin

A robin sitting on a branch

Robins are famous for their bright, red chest and believe it or not, although they’ve become a symbol of the festive season, they can visit your garden throughout the year.

We’ll get onto feeding birds in your garden shortly, but robins are known to love:

  • Mealworms
  • Suet balls
  • Cheese

2) Great Tit

A Great Tit taking a break from eating

Great Tits are a beautiful resident of British gardens, known for their black heads, white cheeks, and yellow fronts. They’re most common in the winter and have a two-syllable birdsong that you’ll recognise easily once you know what to listen for.

3) Goldfinch

A goldfinch on a flower

The Goldfinch is one of the most colourful birds to be found in British gardens, instantly recognisable for their bright yellow wings and red face.

Although you may spot them at your bird feeder from spring to autumn, they have been known to migrate to warmer climates during the winter, sometimes travelling as far as Spain. If only we could all do the same!

4) Chaffinch

A chaffinch resting on a branch

The Chaffinch is the UK’s second most common bird. It can be identified by its reddish feathers and a slight quiff on the top of its head.

You’re most likely to see these birds on the ground or near the edge of hedges as they prefer to eat away from watching eyes, and they have a loud song you’re sure to hear.

5) Wood Pigeon

Two wood pigeons walking on a fence

As the largest and most common type of pigeon in the UK, you’re almost guaranteed to see a Wood Pigeon in your garden at some point. With their grey feathers and white detail around the neck, they’re likely one of the most well-known birds in the UK.

They also have a recognisable cooing call, so you’re more likely to hear them before you see them!

6) Starling

A starling sits on a fence while snow falls

Starlings are a stunning bird with purple-black feathers and eye-catching flecks of white on their backs. They most often travel in flocks, so if you get one, you’ll probably get many!

As they’re travelling together, they can be very chatty and you’ll likely hear them socialising around your bird feeder.

7) Magpie

A magpie sits on a roof

A Magpie is another instantly recognisable bird for many with its black and white feathers and long tail. They’ve also been known to be very intelligent and have a love for shiny things, so if any jewellery goes missing, you’ll know why!

8) Wren

A wren looking for its next meal

Wrens are small, round brown birds with a tail that’s often sticking straight into the air. They try to make up for their small stature with a surprisingly loud birdsong and may appear in your garden throughout the year.

9) Goldcrest

A goldcrest stands on a branch

The Goldcrest takes the crown as the smallest bird in the UK, so you’ll have to really keep your eyes open to spot this one in your garden.

Their feathers are a mix of grey and brown, and their most recognisable feature is a black and yellow stripe on their heads. You can also tell whether they are male or female from this yellow stripe, as males will have a section of orange in the middle, but females don’t.

10) Long-Tailed Tit

A long-tailed tit stands on a snowy branch

With its long tail, the Long-Tailed Tit is easy to spot and identify if it lands in your garden. Not to mention that it often travels in flocks of up to 20 birds, turning your bird feeder into a blur of pink, fluffy feathers.

DO: Put out food they’ll like:

A bird in a berry bush

There are many different varieties of food and seed mixes that will attract birds to your garden. Just like us, birds have their favourite foods, so certain mixes are more likely to attract certain species.

For example, here are a few bird species and their favourite foods:

  • Robins: Cheese, mealworms, suet balls.
  • Blue Tits: Unsalted peanuts, mealworms, sunflower seeds.
  • Blackbirds: Sultanas, rolled oats, tinned dog food (we’ll discuss this one more shortly!)

Of course, there are a range of bird-specific seed and suet mixes, but you can also use food scraps from your household’s meals for bird food:

  • Breadcrumbs
  • Cheese (everyone loves cheese!)
  • Leftover pastry flakes
  • Dried fruits, like raisins and sultanas
  • Leftover cooked potatoes

DO: Use a bird-feeder to keep food safe from other garden wildlife:

Birds eating suet balls from a bird feeder

Not all birds like to eat from a bird feeder that’s out in the open as they may feel exposed to predators, but many species do, such as the Goldfinch. These can be filled with mealworms, suet, seeds, and more, giving many birds their own little restaurant.

Hanging bird feeders can be especially useful if you’re putting out food that may attract other garden wildlife—for example, putting out some tinned dog food for blackbirds could attract foxes.

Don’t forget to sprinkle a few morsels on the ground for those who prefer to eat from the floor, such as Chaffinches.

DO: Provide water and shelter:

Birds resting in a bird box

Birds need more than food, just like the rest of us!

Make sure you provide a place where they can drink fresh water, such as a bird bath, and a bird box for them to roost and nest throughout the year. Ideally you want these to be high up and quite camouflaged from predators, such as on the side of a tree or hedge.

DON’T: Feed them certain foods or liquids:

A bird pecking at a loaf of bread

There are some things which you shouldn’t give to birds as they may upset their stomachs or have very little nutritional value. These include:

  • Avocado: Contain a fatty, acidic substance that can cause heart damage or sudden death in wild birds.
  • Chocolate: As for most animals, chocolate is toxic! It may cause diarrhea, seizures, or even death.
  • Milk: This can result in an upset stomach or worse as birds’ stomachs are not designed to digest milk. Fermented dairy products such as cheese are able to be digested but milk itself can cause serious problems for our feathered friends.
  • Fruit with pits or seeds: These are choking hazards for small birds, so ensure that all stones and seeds are removed before “serving.”
  • Large pieces of bread: Although bread doesn’t have much nutritional value, birds do seem to enjoy breadcrumbs. Avoid larger pieces as they offer few benefits and may be a choking hazard.

DON’T: Disturb nests:

A robin being released

If you’re providing an ongoing source of food, water, and comfort in your garden, the chances increase that you will eventually find a nest filled with eggs or fledgling birds.

As cute as they are, try to keep your distance and avoid touching the nest. This will only concern the parent birds and their growing family.

If, however, you’ve found a nest of fledglings and haven’t seen the parent birds visit within the past 24 hours, give your local veterinarians a call for advice.

Get to know your garden wildlife!

Well, this was just another flying visit into our growing Beginner’s Guide to Garden Wildlife, but we hope you learned something about how to attract and care for the wild birds that may visit your garden. Now get out there and create a space that birds will love coming back to!

You might also be interested in our Beginner’s Guide to Foxes.