15 birds you can spot over your Suffolk home during lockdown
- Credit: Archant
With Spring in full swing, Ipswich bird spotter Justin Zantboer, shares his tips on what you can see flying over Suffolk from the comfort of your own back garden.
A medium sized, long-tailed bird with mostly pale plumage except for a dark partial neck collar and darker wing-tips.
Collared Doves feed on the ground and can often be seen underneath birdfeeders clearing up the fallen food where they often attempt to ‘bump’ each other out of the way if food is in short supply. They also have quite a loud call too, sounding a little cuckoo-like at distance, often singing from aerials or chimneys early in the morning, waking up sleepy children and their parents.
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One of the most common - and the shortest birds - in the UK is the wren. This tiny little brown bird with its small cocked tail and no-necked appearance is normally quite secretive, staying low down in dense cover out of sight.
However, when the male sings his incredibly loud, explosive song it is often given from an elevated, open perch, with him almost shaking excitement as he sings.
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Robin sized, mostly brown birds with streaky upper-parts, a greyish head and throat and dark pointed bills, the Dunnock feeds secretively on the ground, hopping in small jerky movements, appearing almost most mouse-like at times.
They’re shy little birds that rarely allow close approach but can often be seen feeding under birdfeeders if no other birds are present, picking up tiny morsels of food.
Probably the most well-known bird in the UK with its red breast and big dark eye, the adult Robin needs no introduction.
However, at this time of year, try to spot the youngsters which are all brown with streaky upper-parts and spotted breasts. They feed much as the adults do, hopping over the ground to actively chase down their food or perching up high then dropping down onto it.
Listen for the Robin’s song which is a pleasant, slow, soft warbling, often heard after dark.
A medium sized songbird, the male is easily recognised in his smart black plumage, fine yellow bill and eye-ring and long tail. The female is dark brown with paler, mottled under-parts and a duller bill. Youngsters are like the females but tend to have even more spotted breasts and feint spots on the upper-parts. Blackbirds are normally seen feeding on lawns, slowly taking a few small hops and cocking their heads, patiently listening for their food. Watching a Blackbird pull up an Earth Worm from its burrow in the ground is always fun.
A Robin sized bird, Blackcaps belong to a family of birds known as Warblers.
The male Blackcap has greyish-brown plumage and, as the name suggests, a smart black cap. Females are the same except they have a brownish red cap.
Blackcaps are mostly summer visitors although in recent years, have become more regular during the winter, enjoying apples spiked on trees. They will visit birdfeeders too but during the Summer, prefer to feed on insects amongst dense bushes.
They can be difficult to spot but their presence is often given away by their loud call when alarmed, a hard tongue-clicking chack. Their song is lovely, being loud, fluty and full of melody, often with some mimicry added too.
Along with the rarer Firecrest, the Goldcrest is the smallest bird in Europe and is often seen in coniferous trees and shrubs, feeding acrobatically in the higher branches, announcing their presence with thin, high-pitched, nasally calls.
Beware though as their call is difficult for the more mature folks to hear so this maybe one for the children to listen out for.
The tiny Goldcrest is a pretty bird with olive-green upper-parts, buff under-parts and two pale wing bars. Males have a striking orange and black cap, with the orange feathers being raised when he’s displaying. Females differ, having a duller yellow and black cap.
All of the UK’s Titmice, as they’re called, are small, pretty birds often with striking plumage.
The Great Tit is the largest of the family and is easy to identify, having bright yellow under-parts split vertically by a black line down the centre, a black head and bright, white cheeks.
The youngsters, normally seen towards the end of May, resemble their parents but have less black and yellow cheeks.
Great Tits are frequent visitors to birdfeeders, normally choosing to quickly take seeds or nuts one at a time to eat in secret.
The Great Tit is known for their diversity of calls but the most regular is distinct, sounding like they are uttering ‘tea-cher, tea-cher, tea-cher’.
Smaller than the Great Tit, the adult Blue Tit has yellow under-parts with only a feint vertical black stripe, a mostly white face with a black stripe running through its eye and a blue cap.
Like the Great Tit, youngsters are normally seen from the end of May onwards and are much like their parents except for having yellow faces. Blue Tits are also frequent visitors to birdfeeders but during the Summer, they prefer to feed on insects or caterpillars and can often be seen acrobatically hanging upside down on branches hunting for food.
As summer progresses, look out for large Tit flocks which are sometimes in excess of 100 birds. It’s safety in numbers as they forage for food.
After the Robin, probably the most recognisable bird in the UK. One of largest birds seen regularly in our gardens, the Magpie, who is a member of the Crow family, has distinct black and white plumage and a very long tail.
They were once believed to steal jewellery and other sparkly, silver items but this is pretty much untrue.
They are however definitely thieves, stealing and eating other bird’s eggs so are often unpopular visitors to our gardens.
However, they do make excellent lookouts and are often the first birds to alert others to the presence of predators, particularly cats, so they’re not always the bad guys that they are portrayed to be.
With their dark plumage and yellow bills, Starlings seen during Summer can often be confused with Blackbirds but closer inspection should reveal some feint spotting on the upper-parts and under the shorter tail and an iridescent plumage, with purple and green sheens to many of the feathers. Starlings often feed in small flocks, walking rather than hopping, impatiently probing the ground with their bills searching for grubs to eat or feed to their chicks.
The youngsters are usually seen from early May onwards and are all dull brown in colour. They constantly follow their parents, making lots of noise as they relentlessly beg for more food.
Small to medium sized birds, with stout conical bills for eating seeds, House Sparrows are seldom seen on their own as they love the company of their own kind.
The males are quite striking with mostly black streaked, brown upper-parts, pale under-parts with an obvious black bib, pale greyish cheeks and strong brown, black and grey head markings.
The females and youngsters are similar but lack the black bib and head markings.
House Sparrows will feed on the birdfeeders and on the ground under them.
They will also use nest boxes situated on buildings and prefer several boxes close together so that they can form a small colony.
What they really like though are large, dense bushes in which they can sit hidden so that they can chat and bicker in safety together.
One of the top three most common UK birds, the Chaffinch is a medium sized member of the Finch family with bold, double white wing-bars, a longish tail with white sides and a greenish rump.
The male is a pretty bird with pale-red underparts and face and a greyish-blue head.
The female and youngsters are much browner with no red or blue.
Chaffinches will use birdfeeders but prefer to feed on the ground underneath them, favouring rummaging around in leaf-litter in the winter.
The males have a distinct, loud descending song comprised of eight to ten notes and normally delivered from the tops of trees.
A very pretty Finch with striking red, black and white face markings and mostly black wings except for a bold, golden yellow wing bar.
Youngsters are usually seen from mid- May onwards, lack the face markings so are easily told part from their parents.
Goldfinches are now one of the most common UK birds to visit gardens and birdfeeders, often being seen in quite sizeable flocks when they’re not breeding.
Listen out for the charming, jingling melodic call as they arrive and depart.
A powerful looking, medium sized Finch recognised by its heavy, conical bill, a yellow panel in the wing and yellow sides to the tail, best seen in flight.
Male Greenfinches are bright birds with yellowish-green plumage. Females are much duller, being more greenish tinged and slightly streaked with youngsters being similar but more heavily streaked. Greenfinches will feed on the ground but usually prefer the birdfeeders which they dominate, threatening other species if they get too close.
Greenfinches were once very common and widespread in the UK, but their numbers have sadly decreased dramatically during this century due mostly to disease thought to be spread by dirty birdfeeders and birdbaths so it’s important to clean these regularly.
The males wheezing song is a joy to behold and would be sorely missed if our Greenfinches can’t make a recovery.