Common garden birds

19 January 2015 ( 03 May 2017 )

Read our guide to some of the most common garden birds in the UK and use our pictures to help identify them.



Each year the RSPB organises the Big Garden Birdwatch, an annual event which uses volunteers to count the birds they see in their garden. In 2017 around half a million people counted over 8 million garden birds to come up with a list of the 10 most common garden birds in the UK.

Buy your copy of the RSPB Handbook of British Birds from the Saga bookshop.

The 10 most common garden birds

According to the 2017 Big Garden Birdwatch the most common garden birds in the UK are:

10. Long-tailed tit
9. Chaffinch
8. Great tit
7. Robin
6. Goldfinch
5. Woodpigeon
4. Blue tit
3. Blackbird
2. Starling
1. House sparrow

Make sure Mother Nature's littlest ones are well fed with Robin & Songbird feed from Saga Garden Centre.

Other common garden birds

Large birds such as magpies, carrion crows, collared doves and jackdaws are also often seen, particularly if you have an open bird table. These distinctive birds can be hard to miss when they appear and are a familiar sight to most of us.

More numerous but harder to spot are the several species of small, brown birds that regularly show up at the bird feeder.

The wren is one of the UK’s smallest birds and with its small, rounded body and upright tail it is often seen in gardens. It is particularly noticeable in spring when male wrens build multiple nests for the female to choose from. A similar but more colourful and even smaller bird is the goldcrest, although this little bird is less often seen in gardens. Read more about the goldcrest.

Another common garden bird is the dunnock, a small brown and grey bird with mottled feathers which provide excellent camouflage, making it hard to spot, although competing males can put on quite a display. Read more about the dunnock.

Female blackbirds can be harder to identify due to their drab colouring, compared to the males, but have beautifully delicate markings if you look closely.

Song thrushes were once a very popular sight in gardens but their numbers are in serious decline, making them much less likely to visit your garden.

As well as blue tits and great tits, coal tits and long-tailed tits are regular visitors and can usually be seen in small flocks. Blue tits, great tits and coal tits might be persuaded to use a well-chosen nest box, but long-tailed tits prefer to build their nests out of lichen and spider webs in hedgerows, the shape of which has led so some amusing nicknames such as Oven builder, Bum barrel and Poke pudding. Read more about long-tailed tits.

Witness birds take flight and soar the skies of their natural habitat on a special interest bird watching holiday Find out more here.

Variables that can affect the birds in your garden

The birds you see in your garden can vary from region to region, and will also depend on what woodland or farmland you have nearby, how close to the sea you are and what food you have in your garden that attracts garden birds. 

Read our guide on what to feed garden birds for more information

The seasons will also affect what birds you see in your garden – with summer bringing exotic visitors such as swallows and winter bringing in some unusual birds to our gardens in search of food. For more information about the birds you might see in your garden in winter, read our guide to winter garden bird spotting.

Climate, too, can have an affect and you're far more likely to see smaller birds early in the year after a mild winter, which explains why smaller birds such as long-tailed tits and coal tits are more numerous in survey results following a mild winter, such as in 2016 and 2017, with long-tailed tits having entered the top ten instead of the collared dove (now .

Bird numbers are constantly changing and birds which were once common are now becoming harder to spot, while other species may be on the increase or recovering from previous drops in numbers.

The RSPB's Big Garden Birdwatch provides a vital role in monitoring the numbers of our common garden birds.What originally started out as a joint venture between the RSPB and Blue Peter watchers became a popular annual event for adults when, in the 1980s, it was noticed that song thrush numbers were rapidly declining, having been at number 10 in the list in 1979 and now at 21.Whether you live in the town or country, the Big Garden Birdwatch is a great way to help the RSPB monitor British garden bird numbers.

Anyone interested in counting garden birds throughout the rest of the year should look into the British Trust for Ornithology's Garden BirdWatch initiative. 

Find out how you can take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch

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