How to improve your bird spotting skills
There are nearly 600 species of birds known in the uk, from resident garden birds to seasonal migratory visitors. We've pulled together some of our best places to go bird spotting, as well as a few top tips that you can use out in the field.
Practice makes perfect
If you’re confused between two species the best thing to do is to read about them and then seek each species out in its natural habitat. Once you've got a good description of the bird, and the more you experience a bird’s behaviour, the better you’ll be at spotting it in the future.
Understanding the structure of birds’ bodies and the terms used, particularly for different groups of feathers, is useful knowledge to have to hand in the field, especially when referring to identification guides.
Another way to identify different species is through their songs and, surprisingly, they are relatively easy to learn.
You’ll already recognise blackbird, blue tit, chiffchaff and robin calls without even realising it. The RSPB eGuide to British Birds app is a really helpful tool for checking birdsong you hear when you’re out spotting.
Some of the easiest bird species to spot are our native garden birds, and you can improve your chances by creating a welcoming habitat for them. A garden full of native shrubs, flowers and grasses and free of excessive fertilizer and pesticide will be much more inviting for birds and may tempt in some unusual ones. Plants such as rowan, wild cherry and elder are particularly good - birds will love their berries and the insects they attract.
It’s not a good idea to feed wild birds bread in your garden – it’s not good for them and you’ll be more likely to attract crows instead.
If you do feed birds peanuts, crush them up first as young birds can choke on full-sized nuts. Overall the best approach is to feed birds foods that would naturally be growing at that time of year – seeds in the summer, nuts in the autumn.
If you want to see some less-common bird species then it's worth travelling slightly further afield to find them in their natural habitats. Here are some of our top places for bird spotting: