Each year the RSPB run the Big Garden Birdwatch, where people are encouraged to count the wild birds they see in their gardens. In 2017, nearly 500,000 people took part. That’s a lot of birds!
In honour of UpCountry’s wild bird month, we’ve compiled a list of the top ten birds spotted in gardens in West Sussex so you can keep an eye out for these species! We’ll list defining characteristics, features and typical diets to help you spot and feed the birds in your garden.
Counting down from 10 to 1, here’s the list!
10. Collared Doves
Collared Doves were spotted a lot in West Sussex. This bird did not exist in Britain until the early 1950s however due to their long breeding season and movements westwards they have become regular garden spots! The collared dove’s monotonous cooing is a noise you will be well accustomed to. The small, slim bird is a pinky-brown grey colour with deep red eyes, red-coloured feet and a long tail. You can distinguish between adults and infant doves by the narrow black and white band around the back of their neck. This is something the adult birds have and younger doves have not yet developed. It’s tail offers a form of protection to the bird. When in flight, the tail is long enough that the birds silhouette looks much like that of a Sparrowhawk. This can cause other birds to mistake them for the hawk and hide, leaving more food for the dove. You can attract collared doves to your garden with small bird seed or breadcrumbs.
The Magpie was the 9th most spotted in West Sussex gardens. It can be easily identified by its bold black and white colours and iridescent shine. The birds long tail is an indication of the magpie’s status in its society, with it accounting for over half the total length. Magpies are successful scavengers and predators however this status has meant that they have few friends in the bird world. They have a varied diet in their natural habitat of rodents, insects, eggs, grain, berries and fruit. In the suburban garden, they are also partial to kitchen scraps and bird food. Magpies have gained themselves a negative reputation due to their consumption of eggs, which was blamed for the decrease of songbirds.
8. Great Tit
The Great Tit is at the number 8 spot. The green and yellow bird has a black head with distinctive white cheeks. It is the largest European tit, measuring similarly in size to the house sparrow. Natively a woodland bird, it has adapted to suburban habitats and now is a regular visitor in UK gardens. On the bird table, it is known for being quite territorial on the bird table, often fighting off smaller tits. You will see this species all year round. During the colder months, it joins with the blue tit to form a roaming flock. This flock will then scour gardens together for food. They feed on insects, seeds and berries. In your garden they will happily feed from hanging containers of nuts and seeds, such as sunflower hearts or kitchen scraps placed on a bird table.
This colourful bird is 7th in our list of local birds. Its distinctive bright red face and yellow wing patch makes it easy to spot in the garden. Their long fine beak is not just a defining feature, it allows them to extract seeds from inaccessible plants and thistles. This gives them an advantage over other birds.These are sociable birds breed in loose colonies. They are increasingly visiting bird tables across the UK. In the winter however they tend to migrate as far south as Spain. During the rest of the year they can often be spotted in areas of scattered bushes and trees or rough ground with thistles. These places could be orchards, parks, gardens and heathlands. Goldfinches will eat insects and any seeds you put out in your garden.
The Robin is a bird beloved by many. The National bird and an icon of the Christmas period, it’s understandable why the country loves this species. Their plump bodies, with orange breast and white belly are familiar sight during winter. Despite their sweet appearance, robins are aggressively territorial and are quick to fend off intruders. They will eat worms, seeds, fruits and insects so are likely to appear in your garden. They tend to watch the ground from a perch before swooping down to snatch their prey. If you plan to feed robins, they have an extremely sweet tooth, loving fruit and coconut cake alongside sunflower hearts.
The male blackbird is easily recognisable in Sussex gardens. Their glossy black feathers and distinguished orange-yellow bill and eye ring make them easy to spot. The female blackbird however, are often brown with characteristic spots and streaks. These birds can be found everywhere from gardens and countryside to coasts and hills. When welcoming blackbirds into your garden, note that they will feed off the ground or from a table. You can feed them sultanas, raisins and kitchen scraps. This is alongside their natural diet of insects, earthworms, tadpoles, small fish, berries and windfall fruits such as apples.
4. Blue Tit
The blue tit is one of the most colourful and recognisable birds in the UK garden. Their bold mixture of blue, yellow, white and green differentiate them from the crowd. As with the great tit, as it heads towards the colder months, blue tits gather together with other groups to search for food. If your garden has four or five blue tits at a feeder at one time, it is likely to be feeding 20 or more. You can spot the blue tit in woodland, hedgerows, parks and gardens. When feeding blue tits, you have a lot of choice. They feed mostly on insects and seeds however in spring they turn to pollen, nectar and sap whilst in autumn they enjoy berries. We would suggest buying sunflower hearts or high energy seed and suet bars to keep them fed and energised. They will happily hang upside down from feeders and branches as they are very agile, so don’t be afraid to place the food in higher places. This will keep the predators away.
The wood pigeon is the most common pigeon found in the UK, they are also the largest. Woodpigeons in the countryside are generally shy. However, in towns and cities woodpigeons have become relatively tame and approachable. Their shorter legs give the impression that they are waddling, adding to the idea that they are overweight. The woodpigeons feathers actually have a combined weight that is greater than its skeleton. Pigeons feed mainly on seeds, grains and crops however are likely to eat anything placed on a bird table. Due to the dry nature of the food they consume, woodpigeons tend to drink a lot of water in order to make up for the insufficient moisture in their diet. They use their beaks like a straw, differently to other birds who scoop the water before throwing their heads back to let it flow down their throat.
The starling is a noisy character. They are great at mimicry, often copying telephones and car alarms. The male starling sings throughout the year apart from July and August when they are moulting. The starling can be easily identified by its short tail, pointed head, triangular wings and glossy sheen. Though from afar they may appear black, up close they are a splendid blend of purples and greens. They are confident birds, who will happily run on the ground. You can spot them in the sky by their pointed wings and fast, direct flight. If looking to feed a starling, you can offer a broad range. They eat anything from insects, worms and snails to berries, fruits, suet and kitchen scraps. They use their powerful, pointed beak to probe the ground and reached buried food.
1. House Sparrow
Despite a rapid decline in numbers, the House Sparrow is currently the most spotted bird in West Sussex gardens. Whilst managing to be present in most of the world, the UK population declined by 71% between 1977 and 2008. They can be spotted everywhere, from city centres to country farmland. The house sparrow tends to feed and breed near to the existence of humans. When feeding a house sparrow, there is a lot of diversity you can explore. While they enjoy seeds, nuts, berries and insects, they will also happily eat household scraps. We suggest feeding sunflower hearts, high energy seed and suet to keep your sparrows healthy and active.
What wild birds do you often see in the garden that aren’t on our list? Let us know in the comments!
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