How many bird species are there in the UK?

The UK is a nation of bird-lovers, though you might wonder what our bird populations are like. From finches to sparrows and everything in between, we've done a little research that we'd be happy to share.

England is full to the brim of fascinating wildlife such as eagles, wales, fish and other animals. This blog focuses on our beautiful flying feathered friends and how many species there are in England and the UK.

How many bird species are there in the world?

Species of Birds in the UK

What is a species of bird?

To tell different species common species from one another, scientists observe breeding populations, seeing which birds can successfully raise a clutch with another.

A bird species is defined by having birds that are, beyond a reasonable doubt, raising young together.

By this definition, the current, admittedly rough, estimate for the number of species in the world is 10,000!

This includes every single breed of bird in the world, from the biggest to the smallest.

This data has mostly been collected by scientists, but has also, in some situations, been collected through civilian science, such as the UK's big garden birdwatch.

How many species are there in the UK?

Well, this question is a little harder to answer than the previous one.

Knowing how many species of birds there are in the UK is tricky because there are a number of birds that may visit the island, but not stay for a long period of time.

Therefore, if the birds aren't in the breeding season, then it can be hard to know if a pair represents one or two species.

The British Ornithologists Union


The BOU categorizes different birds according to a number of factors and, based on these categories, the list of UK bird species can rise and fall.

With that said, though, their total stands at 574 species of birds in the UK.

The list is separated into different categories for UK species. These are demarcated as categories A through C.

Categories A through C

'A' birds are birds that have been recorded in an apparently natural state at least once, since the first of January, 1950.

'B' birds are birds that have been recorded in an apparently natural state before 1950, but not recorded subsequently.

'C' birds are birds that have been introduced to the UK, and now sustain themselves with a functional breeding population.

Categories D and E

There are also categories D and E. A category D species is one that would be within category A if it weren't for the fact that we aren't sure if they ever occurred in a natural state.

Not being in a 'natural state' means that they could have been selectively bred in captivity and released, rather than been created through evolution.

A category E species is a bird that has been introduced as some form of introduction to the UK.

These birds could be escapees from zoos that have been allowed to live in the wild. If they have a breeding population size, they aren't thought to be self-sustaining at all.

Categories D and E aren't counted within the British Ornithologists Union count of how many species there are - they simply aren't on the British list.

What is the rarest bird in the UK?

What is the goshawk?


It's not a common species by any definition, which means that you would likely already have trouble trying to track it down.

On top of that, different subspecies of goshawk have quite unique appearances, meaning that they can be nearly impossible to identify.

To nail the point home - the goshawk is so rare that, during the 19th century, the bird was actually considered extinct!

What is the UK's most common bird species?

Our theory

You likely already have a theory on this front, and so do we.

Before researching for the article, we thought that it was likely the most common bird species was pigeons. Oddly, this isn't the case!

The most common species in the UK is the wren.

The Wren

These birds are extremely prolific across the country, having roughly 8.5 million breeding territories in the UK!

This means that there are, simply, a large number of them.

Over time, this only means that more and more of the birds will hatch, of course.

Wrens themselves are very widespread throughout the country, though they can be quite rare to see.

They love to stay undercover, to prevent predators from coming for them, which means that they rarely even attend to feeders, preferring to stay safe, instead.

Interestingly, the birds can easily be heard throughout the UK - they have a very loud song, despite the fact that they're an exceptionally small bird.

How many species of birds are found in the United States?

Knowing how many species are in the UK is a lovely piece of knowledge to know, but it doesn't really mean too much on its own.

Instead, we'd argue, that you need a little bit of context.

To get that context, we'd like to speak about how many species of birds there are in the US. The US is a huge, huge country, so we'd expect the number to be higher.

The number of species of birds in the US is 1107 - a huge number, twice what there is in the UK!

This is fantastic since it means there are so many species to look out for. Something that we like to consider, though, is the fact that this means the UK is very dense with birds.

The UK is quite a small country, roughly the size of some of the smaller US states on the east coast of the continent.

Within that small landmass, we boast 574 different species of birds, all of which are quite different front one another.

A little bit of maths

The rough area of the UK is 242,000 square kilometers, which gives us a rough way to calculate density - there are just over two species of birds per thousand square kilometers in the UK.

To put that into context, a city is generally around 1000 square kilometers, with bigger cities like London being a little larger.

The US is enormous! The rough area of the country is 9.8 million square kilometers.

Using the figures from our article, we can calculate that the US has approximately 0.1 species of bird per 1000 square kilometers.

That's a huge difference, and it serves to help explain the point that we're trying to make: the UK's biodiversity is quite unprecedented around the world.

From birds in a wild state to birds that have escaped and simply made the countryside their habitat, the sheer number of birds in the UK is exceptionally impressive.

Our favourite UK species found in the garden & bird populations


So here we go, our favourites are:

  • Doves

  • Robins

  • Blue Tit

  • Black Spotted Woodpecker

  • Barn Owl

We have blog posts dedicated to attracting certain species of birds into your garden, so be sure to check them out! But in summary having nest boxes, bird feed (including seeds and insects) and other bird attracting features helps a lot! Why not try to watch and track birds during nesting with a nest box with camera set up!

In case you couldn't tell from this article - we adore birds and everything to do with them! We're so glad that we've been able to talk about UK birds in this article, and we hope that you've learned a thing or two about birds in the UK. Happy birdwatching!