Small British Garden Birds - A Complete Guide

As a nation, Britain has a deep and endless fondness for garden birds. In truth, no one would think that's too bizarre. Garden birds are a beautiful and heart-warming thing to see anywhere in the world, and the UK is no exception.

The thing that sets the UK apart from other places in the world is our love of bird feeders. The UK has a much larger number of feeders in their gardens, front and back than other nations around the world, and this has led to the Uk having a relatively huge population of different garden birds.

In this article, we'll be speaking about these little feathered friends, and talking about some of our favourite birds a little more than others, probably.

Identifying Common British Garden Birds

Common British garden birds are typically all around the same size. That sounds like a bizarre statement to make, but it's true - from robins to sparrows and tits to wrens, they all fit into the small bird category.

This is certainly to the advantage of bird watchers since it makes it easier to fit a number of them into a small space.

Therefore, the primary way to notice different species of birds is in their coloration and markings. This was noticed as far back as the victorian era when the wealthy elite would happily sketch and paint birds from their garden for many hours.

The coloration of UK birds is varied and impressive, so that's what we'll likely spend a lot of time talking about today.

What are the most common small garden birds?

The most common small garden birds are the ones that you would easily be able to identify in a children's picture book. Generally, these will be robins and different species of tit.

The blue tit is the easiest to spot since it has bright blue wings, but there is also the great tit and the coal tit.

These birds also tend to specialise in munching at the seeds and insects people commonly fill bird feeders with, so they'll happily congregate around the feeder in any garden.

British Garden Birds

How to identify common garden bird species

Common garden bird species are most easily identified by their coloration since they tend to be around the same size.

The robin, for instance, is very easy to spot, since it has bright orange breast feathers. It's notable in that both male and female robins have this coloration, though they can be a mottled brown when younger.

The blue tit is perhaps the most striking UK bird, with the adult colours being breathtaking in the morning sunlight.

It's a terribly colourful bird, with a yellow breast and belly, as well as blue wings and tail feathers. It has a white face, with a black strip across the eyes and around the head.

The blue tit is similar to the great tit, with the difference being in the levels of blue that the two birds have. The great tit has much less blue, with the wing and tail feathers being a dark petrol blue, more similar to black than the bright coloration of a blue tit.

British Garden Birds

What is the rarest British bird?

The rarest UK garden bird is the capercaillie - it's so rare that we hadn't even really heard of it before starting research for this article.

They're a member of the grouse family and are typically native to Scotland. They're very small, though they experience a fairly rare level of sexual dimorphism - male capercaillie is typically twice as large as their female counterparts.

That's a huge difference when most UK birds are very similar across sexes, though may sometimes have a difference in coloration.

What is the best bird food for small garden birds?

Generally speaking, birds enjoy a protein-rich diet. This is the reason that they eat a lot of nuts, seeds, and insects - the protein will fill their bellies and give them a lot of energy to fly around with.

When you're in doubt about what to feed small garden birds, we would suggest opting for mealworms.

Dried mealworms are generally quite cheap and easy to track down near your home, and they're eaten by a huge number of different species of birds.

Seeds are also a wonderful idea, from sunflower seeds to smaller, more flavoursome options. These contain a good balance of fat and protein which can allow a bird to swell in size a little for the winter - consider putting these out during the final few months of mating season.

British Garden Birds

Is bread bad for small birds?

Not totally, but it can be fairly bad when eaten in large quantities. Generally speaking, there are three things that make bread a bad food source - swelling, algae growth, and filling.

The swelling point is the same reason that rice is typically not handed out to birds anymore, despite the fact it was so popular for such a long time.

When the birds eat dry food like uncooked rice or pieces of bread, the moisture in their stomach can swell the food during digestion. This can lead to internal damage to the bird, making it sick and, potentially, killing it.

Bread can also be bad when fed to waterfowl because it contains a lot of carbohydrates. When these carbohydrates are left to mold and rot in the water of a lake, the sugars in them become available, which are then dissolved.

With the change in the nutrients in the water, algae can become more prevalent, leading to a green sheet over the water of the lake. This will further upset the balance of water, leading to a poor final environment for the birds themselves.

Finally, we come to the main reason it's quite bad for garden birds - it's a filler. Bread has relatively little nutrient content for birds, meaning that when they eat it, it will typically be digested and passed with little benefit to the bird.

It can mean that they then have less room in their stomachs for more nutritious food, which can lead to a lack of proper nutrition in a bird.

British Garden Birds

Bird feeders

Bird feeders are possibly the single greatest thing that you can offer to garden feeders. From the blue tit to the house sparrow, they will all be happy to come down and eat in full view of your home.

We would advise getting a range of different seeds and insects that come pre-mixed and offering them to the birds in your local area. They will eventually come down and eat away at the food since they prefer to have a number of food options in the local area to their nest boxes.

British Garden Birds

Common garden birds

There are a wide range of common garden bird species throughout the UK, and we're going to speak about them a little later on when we break them down into a handy list.

It's worth bearing in mind at this juncture, though, there are a number of families of different birds throughout the UK. For instance, there's the UK tit family, the UK crow family, and other similar birds that are grouped together.

It can be helpful to identify if your garden is playing host to any one bird family in particular, as you'll be able to offer food to them a little more specifically, in keeping with their dietary needs.

British Garden Birds

Most common garden birds

The most common birds are the ones that are well-fed. This is something that we're likely to discuss at great length in this article since it's something that we've certainly spoken about before.

The simple truth of it all is that garden feeders will come if you provide food for them.

This can be as simple as a packet of sunflower seeds from the supermarket, to as frugal as the leftover seeds from carving pumpkins at Halloween.

British Garden Birds

What is the smallest UK garden bird?

The goldcrest is the smallest UK bird, and it's certainly tiny. It's a very colourful bird, with a grey-green coloration across most of its body, as well as a pale belly.

They have a black and yellow stripe on their heads, and that stripe has an orange centre in males, which can be very easy to spot in some conditions.

They're specialised insect eaters, with long, pointy beaks. These beaks are commonly used to pull insects out from between pine needles, which means that they have to be quite exceptionally fine indeed.

British Garden Birds

What is the most common small bird in the UK?

The house sparrow, in terms of sheer numbers, is the most common small bird species in the UK. Of all the British birds, it's one of the smallest, yet it's certainly one of the loudest.

If you're a UK birdwatcher, you'll certainly be aware of the call that these birds make, and you'd be able to pick it out of a crowd, too - take a look on YouTube, you'll find plenty of examples of their noisy behaviour.

Somewhat like chihuahuas, the house sparrow is known for having a lot more energy and (for want of a better term) gumption than its size would imply. They may come right up to people when they've spent their whole lives around humans, leading to some very confident birds indeed.

They get their name from the fact that, in days gone by, they would commonly nest in and around houses. The house sparrow might use the attic or a similar space in an old house or barn to nest, with young house sparrows often learning to fly when they leap from a high-up nest.

It might sound quite terrifying to a human, but that's what house sparrows are very happy to do.

What British bird is smaller than a wren?

When people think of small birds in the UK, the bird that comes to mind is the goldcrest - it's the smallest bird in the country!

They have a really small wingspan of around fourteen centimetres and a length (beak to tail) of nine centimetres. That is exceptionally small and smaller than some species of British bat.

On average, goldcrest weighs around six grams. To put that into perspective, a teaspoonful of water weight five grams - they barely weight a thing at all!

It's quite rare to see the goldcrest at a bird feeder since it can be intimidated by other, larger birds.

It can also be a bit too weak to totally fly across a garden to a feeder, instead being used to short hops between the branches of a pine tree.

A Guide To British Garden Birds

There is a vast number of British garden birds, thanks in no part to the UK's fascination with having a bird feeder in the garden.

British birds are a range of colours, sizes, and temperaments, with it being nearly impossible to keep all the information in your mind.

Here, we're going to break down some of the more common British birds for you, including what they tend to look like, as well as where and when you might be likely to spot them. Most of these options can be spotted at your bird feeder, so keep an eye out!

British Garden Birds


Robins are, perhaps, the most favoured bird of the UK. They're quite exceptionally eye-catching, since they have that bright red breast that they use to attract mates.

Males and females look identical in both coloration and shape, but the young don't have the red breast - they are generally a spotted brown colour.

Robins tend to sing all year round, even in the depths of winter. This is one of the reasons that they're enjoyed by people in the UK since they announce their presence and are quite easy to see. Plus, in truth, they're just cute!

British Garden Birds

House Sparrows

House sparrows are the most common bird species in the UK, despite a decline in numbers over time that is quite staggering. The most notable thing about house sparrows is how noisy and gregarious they are! They will make a lot of noise for such a small creature and are often quite happy to sit somewhere and sing away for hours at a time.

The adult male house sparrow has a grey belly, with striped wings. The stripes on the wings are brown and black, running the length of the body.

The head of the sparrow is black around the beat, white below the eyes, and grey on top of the head. The female has a grey hood, while the male has a brown patch on the back of its head.

Coal Tit

A personal favourite for the gothic nature of its coloration, this bird looks as though it can only be displayed in black and white. The wings of the bird are black and white, with a grey back and a light grey belly.

The head is black and white, with a black cap and a white patch at the back of the neck. These British birds can commonly be seen at feeders. They will often eat their fill, and then head off with a little extra to store for winter.

Great Tit

The great tit is a little larger than blue tits and other birds in that family, though it's still not large enough to be more than a small bird.

It's green and yellow, with a glossy black head and white cheeks.

It's a woodland bird, really, which explains the large size - you might need to be a little larger if you were foraging in the woods.

It can be quite aggressive at the bird table, attempting to fight off the long-tailed tit or other birds of the tit family in order to get food.

Blue Tit

Blue tits are perhaps the most recognisable UK garden bird. They're exceptionally colourful, with blue and white wings and a yellow belly.

Their face is quite distinctive, too, with a blue cap and white cheeks. The cheeks have a black strip across them that passes directly through the eye, as though forming a mask.

Blue tits eat insects most of the time, thanks to the fact that they're a very calorie-dense source of food.

They can also eat nuts and seeds, which they will be happy to eat alongside long-tailed tits at the bird feeder.

Blue tit

Long Tailed Tit

The long-tailed tit has, surprise surprise, a long tail. The tail is notable, of course, though it's also very impressive - it's often around the same length as the bird itself!

Long-tailed tits are almost as loud and boisterous as sparrows, though they're a little timider in some situations.

The long-tailed tit has a white belly, black and white wings, and a very short, stubby beak.

It's likely you've seen a long-tailed tit in your garden if you live near the countryside. Along with other tits, they tend to comb through hedgerows during the winter, and come to feeders in the summer.

House Martin

The house martin is a small bird that has glossy blue-black upper parts and pure white underparts.

The silhouette of the bird is quite distinctive indeed, with the angular wings forming a striking shape in the sky.

These birds are summer migrants, and they spend their winters in Africa, where they can get warmer. When in the UK, they make a nest from mud and place it below the eaves of buildings.


The wren is a very small and charming bird, another that is among the favourites of a range of birdwatchers throughout the UK. It has a dark brown upper and a light brown belly and body.

It also has small strips across its face that appear a little like an eyebrow - it's a stripe of the belly colour breaking up the colour of the wings and back.

For such a little bird, the voice is very loud. This has, to some extent, meant that it is the most common UK breeding bird - mates can always find one another even if they're out of sight.

The dark brown wings hide the shape of the bird a little, which is really very charming - it's a dumpy, almost spherical bird, which is a charming addition to any gathering of British birds at a bird table.


The goldfinch is a very sociable bird that forms long bonds within a loose colony. They have a very pleasant song and call and visit bird tables more commonly over time. They're another migratory bird, going as far south as Spain during winter.

They're strikingly coloured among British birds, with black wingtips and mustard flight feathers.

They have a white belly and a buff-coloured back, as well as a black hood, white cheeks, and an eye-catching red face.

Compared to other finches, their beaks are quite long and fine. This means that, among British birds, they're some of the only creatures to master feeding on thistles, which are notoriously prickly and sharp.


The male bullfinch is certainly a personal favourite among British birds, with the vibrant red-pink breast serving to attract birds of the opposite sex for mating.

The female has a subdued yellow coloration to her chest, setting them apart visibly, which is quite helpful for birdwatchers.

Rather like collared doves and the wood pigeon, these birds have black wingtips and tail feathers, which help them to blend in when viewed from above. This is a tactic employed by many birds to avoid predators, thereby helping them live a little longer.


The greenfinch is a beautifully striking bird, looking like it might be more common in the rainforest than in any UK forest. It's a beautiful yellow and green coloured bird with simple and attractive grey wingtips and tail feathers.

The greenfinch is quite different from other green British birds, such as the green woodpecker, in that it nests happily in garden conifers. While there, they often enjoy feasting on sunflower seeds.


The goldcrest is the UK's smallest bird. Their green coloration is a little greyer than other green birds, such as the green woodpecker, meaning that they are well camouflaged against a range of shades of green.

The stripe on their head is a very notable feature about these birds - it is orange, and bordered on both sides with a black stripe. This makes them quite easy to spot when searching with binoculars, and we would recommend endeavouring to do so - they're certainly lovely birds.



Boasting a similar buff colour to collared doves or the wood pigeon across most of their body, the jay also has some blue stripes at the base of the wing, and a black and white striped cap. This makes it quite notable, in that it's strikingly coloured while being in the crow family.

As a crow, it eats a wide variety of different things. They mostly eat acorns and nuts, but they can also eat other birds (typically the young) as well as some very small mammals. 

We hope that this article on different British garden birds has helped you to put some names to different birds that visit your garden. They can be a wonderfully sweet thing to have near your home, and we hope your feathered friends continue to visit you.