Spring Birdsong: How to Identify Garden Birds from their Song
The sound of birdsong is one of the first welcome signs that spring has sprung. Our trees, our hedgerows and our gardens are once again noisy with the warbling and calling of birds.
Each bird species has its own unique song. Here are a few pointers on how to identify them:
You may have heard the robins in your garden singing their high-pitched trill all the way through winter. During the spring and summer, their song takes on a little more gusto. They tend to sing first thing in the morning and last thing in the evening. At dusk and dawn most other songbirds are roosting so robins get the stage to themselves.
Listen to the song of the robin here.
The great tit starts singing early in the spring. Its song is hard-sounding, with two sharp notes – higher and then lower – repeated again and again. Because great tits love to visit bird feeders, it’s often possible to see as well as hear them singing.
Listen to the song of the great tit here.
Despite its small size, the wren has a powerful set of lungs. If you catch sight of it singing, you’ll see its whole body vibrating with the power of its song. Its calls are loud and warbling and easy to recognise even though they’re so varied.
Listen to the song of the wren here.
Chiffchaffs are some of the first migrant birds to arrive in the UK in the spring. And they stick around until the end of the summer. The chiffchaff has a gentle, plodding song that sounds just like its name.
Listen to the song of the chiffchaff here.
Blackbirds are year-round singers. They can sometimes be heard singing quietly in the undergrowth during winter months. But it’s from spring until the end of July (the end of the breeding season) when you’re most likely to hear its full-throated song. Blackbird song is varied, rich and flute-like, often ending with a few squeaky, high-pitched notes.
Listen to the song of the blackbird here.
The chaffinch is another bird with great variety in its song. Typical characteristics, however, include a loud trill that descends into a little flourish at the end. The noise can be remembered with the phrase, "chip chip chip chooee chooee cheeoo".
Listen to the song of the chaffinch here.
See if you can distinguish a few garden birds from their song this spring. Recognising the species that visit your garden will help you to provide the right food. And give you lots of enjoyment too.
Garden Birds in Spring: Things to Look out For
In spring, our gardens begin to burst with life after the cold winter months. Early flowering plants bring a splash of colour. There’s frogspawn in the ponds. And the occasional bumblebee can be spotted buzzing around on a hunt for nectar.
There’s also plenty happening in the bird world. Here are a few spring bird events to look out for as the season approaches:
The increase in birdsong is a sure fire sign that spring is on its way. Birds sing to mark out their territory and attract a mate. And their songs are as distinct as they are beautiful. Brush up on your birdsong to identify the species you have in your garden. Or just sit back and enjoy your morning cuppa whilst you listen to their magnificent musical performance.
The busy task of nest building usually begins in mid to late spring. But some early birds try to beat the rush, managing to build a nest, mate, lay and hatch their eggs, all by the end of March. Robins, blackbirds and collared doves are all species that breed early in the year and are able to produce more young in a season as a result.
As the UK weather warms up, migrant birds return from their stay in warmer climes. Chiffchaffs are usually one of the first, often returning in March. Swallows, house martins and cuckoos arrive in April. And swifts usually complete their journey home by early May.
Winter Species Departing
A number of migrating species also leave the UK in spring. Blackcaps can be seen in gardens all year round. However, you’re most likely to spot one in winter because part of the population leave when the weather gets warmer. Winter thrushes and finches will also head off in search of colder conditions as spring approaches.
More Birds at Garden Feeders
The breeding season requires a lot of energy. So birds are keen to eat at every opportunity and it’s a great idea to lend them a helping hand. Seeds and nuts are the perfect food for birds at this time. However, only ever provide unsalted nuts and put any whole nuts in a mesh feeder. That way they can’t be fed whole to baby birds who may choke on them.
Spring is a busy and exciting time for our garden birds. Provide food and water for any garden visitors and you’ll get to see all of the action up close.
- Nikki Boxwild
How to Protect Garden Wildlife in Winter
During the winter, garden wildlife is particularly vulnerable. Cold weather means less food, chilly temperatures and fewer places to hide from predators. Some of our bird gifts are perfect for helping garden birds through the winter. But here are a few other tips on how to protect garden wildlife during the coldest months of the year:
Defrost Water Sources
Insects, birds and mammals need clean drinking water. Leave out a bowl of fresh water every day. If you have a pond, defrost it on particularly cold days. Rest a warm pan on the ice to create a drinking hole. Don’t use boiling water or break the ice as this can harm creatures living in your pond.
Avoid Cutting Back Perennials
Your garden may look a little unruly but all of that extra foliage is providing a much needed hiding place for garden wildlife. Avoid cutting back your shrubs for as long as possible. You could even consider adding a few new shrubs to the garden. Because perennials are so hardy they don’t mind being planted during the winter.
Leave out a Regular Source of Food
The birds and mammals who visit you garden come to rely on the food you leave for them. Their usual food sources are scarce and they need lots of energy to maintain their body heat. If you’re in the habit of leaving out food, be sure to continue during the winter, including fatty food options when you can. This is when your garden wildlife needs your help most.
Create Leaf Piles
Gather leaves from your lawn and place them in piles at the borders or corners of your garden. These leaf piles will attract insects. Ground-feeding birds will love to turn over the leaves looking for a tasty snack.
Choose Christmas Traditions Wisely
Many shops now sell “reindeer food”, which children are encouraged to sprinkle on the lawn as a treat for Santa’s helpers on Christmas Eve. But many of these food packs include glitter and foil. These could be damaging to birds and mammals who are liable to eat them along with the other edible ingredients. The RSPCA recommends making your own reindeer food mix – a great Christmas tradition that could help rather than hinder your garden wildlife.
Surviving the British winter is tough for many species of wildlife. By doing a little garden maintenance and providing a helping hand, you can protect your garden wildlife and ensure they make it through to spring.
- Nikki Boxwild
Feeding the Birds in Winter
Winter is the most important time of year for feeding your garden birds. It’s a time when food shortages are common.
The berries of late summer and early autumn have disappeared. Insects are harder to come by. And frosty or snowy conditions make some food sources inaccessible. What’s more, birds are using up lots of energy just trying to stay warm.
Here are a few tips for feeding the birds in winter:
Provide a Variety of Food
Different birds prefer different foods. Sparrows and finches like to eat seeds, tits love to eat fat and thrushes and robins have a taste for sugary fruit. To help a variety of bird species, provide a variety of food. Our Fatty Box is ideal for the winter months.
Provide Fatty Foods
Fatty foods provide birds with the energy they need to maintain fat reserves and survive cold winter nights. You can leave out your own cooked leftovers such as unsalted bacon, bacon fat and beef fat.
Alternatively, buy fat balls and place them in a fat ball feeder. And, if you buy fat balls in a nylon mesh bag, be sure to remove the bag before hanging them as the mesh can injure and even trap birds.
Birds will come to rely on the food you provide. It’s important that you maintain a feeding routine throughout the winter. You should adjust the quantity of food to the demand but try not to let your bird feeders sit empty.
Provide Water Too
Your birds need to drink as well as eat. In winter, their usual water sources may freeze over. If you have a bird bath, try to keep the water from freezing and defrost when necessary.
Clean your Feeders Regularly
During winter, your bird feeders will be very popular with local bird populations. But when so many birds gather together in the same place, it’s easy for disease to spread. To keep your garden birds healthy, move bird feeders around the garden and clean them regularly.
React to the Weather
When the weather turns particularly cold, you might need to up your efforts if your garden birds are to survive. Try to provide food twice a day – in the morning and early afternoon – and clear any snow away from feeders.
The food you leave for your birds in winter can make all the difference to their survival. Provide high quality bird food on a regular basis and you’ll find more birds in your garden come spring.
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Christmas Gift Ideas for Bird Lovers
Looking for the perfect Christmas gift for the bird lover in your life? Then look no further. Here we’ve compiled a comprehensive list of the best presents for bird watchers and enthusiasts:
Garden Bird Essentials
There are plenty of ways to attract birds to a garden. And many of them make great presents. Stylish bird feeders, beautiful bird baths and well-designed nest boxes come in a variety of designs. You can buy something simple but sturdy. Or opt for something lavish that will make a striking addition to the garden. And don’t forget some winter bird seed or our Robin Bird Seed Box.
Practical Bird Watching Gear
For those who like to do their birdwatching out and about, binoculars are an essential piece of kit. You could treat your loved one to the most technologically advanced pair available. Other useful birdwatching gear includes notebooks and bird identification books – both of which make the perfect stocking fillers.
A Bird Lover’s Subscription
If you prefer to buy a gift that keeps on giving, consider a bird lover’s subscription. You could set your bird lover up with a 12 month bird seed subscription, so they can feed their garden birds all year round. Alternatively, subscribe to their favourite bird watching magazine. Or sign them up as an RSPB member. Membership entitles them to a free gift and free entry to more than 170 nature reserves across the UK.
Perhaps the bird lover in your life would love a framed painting of their favourite bird? See this Robin original painting from Sophie Kane.
If you’re planning on splashing out, you could choose some stylish jewellery with a bird motif. Earrings, necklaces, rings, bracelets and cufflinks – whatever you’re looking for, it’s easy to find jewellery that incorporates your friend or relative’s favourite bird.
Gifts for Bird-Loving Children
The list of bird-related gifts is never ending. But here are a few other ideas we really love. For younger bird lovers, there is our Big Bird Gift Box..
So whatever your bird lover is in to, there’s a great bird-related Christmas present out there for them!
- Nikki Boxwild
8 Interesting Facts about Goldfinches
The goldfinch is one of the most common birds in British gardens. And it’s certainly one of the most striking. Here are 8 interesting facts about these beautiful birds:
#1 According to the RSPB Big Birdwatch 2018, goldfinches have had a bumper year. Recorded sightings rose 11% from 2017 and goldfinches were spotted in an incredible two thirds of gardens. There are currently thought to be 1.2 million breeding pairs of goldfinch in the UK.
#2 Male and female goldfinches look pretty much the same. Juveniles, however, are much duller in appearance. They are mainly brown with some yellow markings on the wings. And they don’t yet have the distinctive red face that they’ll gain in adulthood.
#3 The goldfinch’s attractive colouring and appealing song meant many Victorians kept them as caged pets. The RSPB fought against the practice but it was only in 1933 that the sale of wild birds was made illegal and the wild goldfinch population began to recover.
#4 Goldfinches can be found in a number of religious artworks from the Italian Renaissance. Because it eats thistles, the bird was associated with Christ’s crown of thorns and was referred to as a “saviour” bird.
#5 The goldfinch’s scientific name is Carduelis carduelis. The name is derived from the Latin word for thistle – Carduus – the seeds of which are one of the goldfinch’s favourite foods. They are able to avoid thistle spikes and access these tricky to reach seeds because of their long fine beaks.
#6 Goldfinches traditionally made their homes in farmland. Now, however, they’re often seen in gardens. This is partly down to the food we leave out for them. They have a particular love for niger seeds and sunflower hearts. They are also known to eat small insects.
#7 Goldfinches nest later in the season than most other garden birds. Eggs hatch from June all the way through to September. Nests are made from grass and mud and built high up in trees and hedges. They’re lined with plant down (for heat and comfort) and covered with lichen (for camouflage).
#8 A flock of goldfinches is called a charm. They’re social birds. Once breeding season is over, they can be seen roaming for food in flocks around 40 strong. Groups of up to 100 have also been spotted.
If you’re yet to see goldfinches in your garden, leave out a few of their favourite foods. You could also try growing teasels and lavender, both of which are known to attract these pretty songbirds.