Garden birds to look out for this spring
PUBLISHED: 10:13 01 March 2019 | UPDATED: 10:20 01 March 2019
Lisa Louise Greenhorn
Here's our guide to which feathered friends you might spot this springtime
Spring is a great time of year for watching birds in your garden, as they begin to prepare for their breeding season. As winter gives way to spring, the longer daylight hours tell the male songbird to get ready to begin courting. So, from early spring, you will notice an increase in birdsong as your garden residents start singing to find a mate.
Some birds, such as blackbirds and robins, tend to begin building nests and laying eggs earlier than other garden birds, so they may already have eggs or young chicks by early spring. Others won’t start nesting until later in the season, and will be joined by millions of migrant birds arriving from far-flung corners of the globe. This makes the spring months one of the most interesting times for garden bird watching, and there are plenty of ways that you can attract visitors to your backyard and ensure that your feathered friends are well fed. Here’s our guide to what species you might spot, and what’s best to feed them during their crucial breeding season.
The goldfinch is a colourful little garden bird, easily recognisable by its bright red face, golden brown back and its striking yellow wing patch. Some goldfinches migrate to the warmer climates of the south of Spain during the winter, but return to the UK by spring. These pretty birds are happy to visit birdtables and feeders, so make sure to leave out a ‘welcome home’ snack in the form of seeds and food bars.
This fast-flying, distinctive bird spends the winter in Africa, returning to the UK in April and May. Swifts are black all over, and look a bit like a boomerang when flying overhead. They are very sociable birds and often travel in groups, calling to each other with unusual high-pitched screams. They like to nest in small holes and nest boxes, so a well placed bird box could bring a swift or two into your garden this spring.
The blue tit is certainly one of our most colourful garden visitors. Its blue, yellow, while and green plumage is vibrant and distinctive, as is its trademark ‘tsee-tsee-tsee’ song. Blue tits are frequent visitors to woodlands, parks and gardens all year round, but spring is a particularly good time to catch a glimpse of these birds as they start building their nests in late March. They are well-adapted to living in towns and gardens and will visit birdtables and peanut feeders.
The nightingale is a shy and secretive bird with a famously melodious song. They are extremely local in their distribution, but luckily for us, Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk are home to the largest numbers of nightingales in the UK. Nightingales are summer visitors, arriving in April and departing once again for warmer African climates in September. They like to nest in dense, impenetrable bushes, shrubs and thickets, so you might catch a sight of this bird if your garden includes thick hedgerows.
If you’re having trouble spotting some of the rarer migrating birds, you might have more luck with the chaffinch, which is a regular garden visitor throughout the year. This colourful little creature feeds on seeds and insects, rarely visiting feeders and preferring to hop on the ground underneath them instead, looking for food that has been dropped. The chaffinch has a loud, pleasant song, so you are likely to hear them before you see them!
What to feed your visitors
Birds tend to expend a lot of energy during the breeding season, as they busy themselves with building nests, defending their territory, laying eggs and finding food for hungry new chicks. You can help your feathered friends stay healthy and energised at this time by keeping your feeder topped up with high-quality bird food. Here’s what we recommend:
■ Sunflower hearts and black sunflower seeds are both high-energy products.
■ The RSPB creates high quality food bars and seed mixtures, suitable for all garden visitors.
■ Soaked sultanas, raisins and currants also make a good snack for visiting birds.
■ Avoid using loose peanuts, large chunks of bread or any fat-based products during spring, as these can be harmful to baby birds.