On this page you’ll find a list of 25 common British birds with pictures and facts on each species. We’ve included not only garden birds, but also species found in woodlands, cities and coastal regions, giving you a useful introduction to British bird species.
We think that everyone in Britain should be able to identify most – if not all – of the birds on this list!
As you read through the list make a note of how many of these common British birds you can identify. Let us know how you did in the comments at the bottom of the page!
Many of these birds can also be found in other parts of the world. If you don’t live in Britain, comment to let us know where you’re from and which of these species can also be found in your country!
Want to see more British Birds?
- Once you know all of the birds on this list, you’ll find 25 slightly less-common British species on this page: Birds of Britain.
When you know all of the birds on both lists you can consider yourself to be a true British bird expert!
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25 Common British Birds: List With Pictures & Facts
- Scientific Name: Turdus merula
- Preferred Habitat: Woodlands, gardens, parks
The blackbird is one of the best known of all British birds. It is a familiar visitor to gardens and parks, where it can be seen foraging for food in the grass. The blackbird’s diet consists of insects, worms, seeds and berries.
The adult male blackbird is unmistakeable, being solid black all over and having a bright yellow-orange bill. Females and juveniles are dark brown, and often have streaky or speckled chests.
The male blackbird has a beautiful, melodic call. Because of this it is one of the star performers in the dawn chorus.
- Scientific Name: Cyanistes caeruleus
- Preferred Habitat: Woodlands, gardens
The blue tit is one of the most common British garden birds. If you have a bird feeder then this small, brightly-coloured species will almost certainly be one of your most regular visitors.
The blue tit has a white face and wears a blue ‘hat’ and a black ‘superhero’ mask. Its wings and tail are blue-grey and it has a yellow chest.
If you can remember the blue hat and black mask, then you’ll never mistake the blue tit for its larger cousin the great tit, whose head is entirely black from the eyes upwards.
- Scientific Name: Buteo buteo
- Preferred Habitat: Woodland, farmland, heathland
The buzzard is the most common British bird of prey, with around 67,000 pairs present during the summer. It is found all over Great Britain and in the east of Ireland.
This large bird of prey is commonly seen high in the sky, gliding or circling with its broad wings held in a shallow V shape. You might also see it perched in a tree or on a telegraph pole by the side of the road.
The buzzard eats voles, birds, rabbits and other small to medium-sized vertebrates. It will also eat worms and insects.
If you’re walking in the open countryside and hear a sound like a mewing cat, look up – it might be a buzzard circling the area, calling out to its mate.
- Scientific Name: Branta canadensis
- Preferred Habitat: Reservoirs, other large bodies of water.
The Canada goose was introduced to Britain from North America around 300 years ago. In recent years its population has grown rapidly and it is now considered a pest in some areas.
The Canada goose is a large, mostly grey bird. It has a black neck and head with a white chin patch. It is often seen in large numbers at reservoirs.
Groups of Canada geese often fly in a V-shaped formation. These groups are known as ‘skeins’. Flying in this manner uses less energy. The birds often change places within the formation, giving the lead bird a chance to get its breath back.
- Scientific Name: Corvus corone
- Preferred Habitat: Farmland, woodland, parks, gardens, coasts, upland areas
In Britain, the carrion crow is often known simply as the ‘crow’. It is a large, black bird that is seen in nearly every type of habitat all across Great Britain.
The carrion crow is a member of the crow family, Corvidae. Members of this family are known as corvids. Like all corvids, the carrion crow is highly intelligent. In fact, it’s one of the most intelligent of all British animals – not just birds!
Carrion crows are similar in size and appearance to rooks. The two species can sometimes be tricky to tell apart.
The best way of telling which is which is by looking at the bird’s face. The carrion crow’s face and beak are black. Short black feathers cover its nostrils.
The rook’s face and bill are pale grey or white, and its nostrils are uncovered.
Crows are often seen alone or in pairs, whereas rooks are more likely to be seen in large groups. However, be careful using this method; crows can often be seen in groups, too.
- Scientific Name: Fringilla coelebs
- Preferred Habitat: Woodlands, gardens, parks
The chaffinch is a small, colourful bird. As is the case with many bird species, the male is more brightly coloured than the female. The male has a reddish face and breast and a grey head. Its wings are brown and black, with distinctive white bars. The female, whose breast and head are dull brown, also has the distinctive white wing bars.
You can often tell what type of food a bird eats by looking at its beak. Like most finches, the chaffinch has a powerful, conical beak for eating the seeds which form the bulk of its diet.
In spring you’ll often hear the male bird’s melodic, descending call emanating from trees and hedges.
- Scientific Name: Streptopelia decaocto
- Preferred Habitat: Farmland, parks, gardens
The collared dove is a member of the family Columbidae, which contains all pigeons and doves. The collared dove is a pale, sandy-brown colour. A distinctive black band around the back of its neck gives the species its name. The collared dove is smaller than both the wood pigeon and feral pigeon.
The collared dove has a repetitive three-note call (in contrast to the repetitive five-note call of the wood pigeon).
Feral Pigeon / Rock Pigeon
- Scientific Name: Columba livia domestica
- Preferred Habitat: Towns & cities
Feral pigeons are the descendants of domestic pigeons which have returned to the wild. Domestic pigeons are rock doves which were originally bred for food.
Wild rock doves can still be found living on cliffs in coastal areas of northern and western Britain.
Rock doves are grey with black wing bars. They have patches of pink and green on the upper breast and neck.
Feral pigeons vary widely in colour. Some are virtually indistinguishable from rock doves; others are nearly all black, nearly all white, or various mixtures of greys, whites and browns.
Feral pigeons can be seen in nearly every British city and town. In some places – such as Trafalgar Square in London – they have even become a tourist attraction.
- Scientific Name: Carduelis carduelis
- Preferred Habitat: Gardens, grasslands with trees & shrubs.
Both male and female goldfinches are brightly coloured, with red faces and pale brown and white breasts. The edges of the wings are dark black with a bright yellow-gold bar in the centre.
Goldfinches are often seen in noisy groups, either working their way through shrubs and trees, or eating seeds from teasels (tall, woody plants with bushy, seed-filled heads).
The collective noun for finches is a ‘charm’. Have you ever seen a charm of goldfinches?
Great Spotted Woodpecker
- Scientific Name: Dendrocopos major
- Preferred Habitat: Woodland
The great spotted woodpecker is found in woodlands throughout Great Britain. It is a medium-sized bird with a long, powerful beak for making holes in trees.
Both male and female are black and white and have red patches near the tail. The male also has a red patch on the back of the neck.
A familiar sound of the British springtime is the machine-gun-like drumming made by the great spotted woodpecker banging its beak rapidly against a tree.
The species is strongly territorial. By drumming, the bird is telling other great spotted woodpeckers to stay away! It’s also a means of impressing the ladies!
- Scientific Name: Parus major
- Preferred Habitat: Woodland, hedgerow, gardens
The great tit is a member of the tit family, Paridae. Like its smaller relative, the blue tit, the great tit has a yellow breast and blue-grey wings.
If you can remember that the great tit, as well as being larger, also has an all-black head with white cheeks, then you won’t have any problem telling the two birds apart.
The great tit feeds mainly on insects and spiders. It will also eat seeds, and is a regular visitor to bird tables.
- Scientific Name: Ardea cinerea
- Preferred Habitat: Wetlands, bodies of water of all sizes.
In Britain, the grey heron is often just called the ‘heron’. This long-necked, grey-feathered bird is a common sight at the edges of rivers, reservoirs and ponds. When hunting it stands motionless for long periods before striking downwards with its deadly bill.
The heron is an apex predator, sitting at the very top of the food chain. It eats a wide range of prey, including fish, frogs, small mammals and even other birds.
- Scientific Name: Larus argentatus
- Preferred Habitat: Coastal areas, towns & cities, reservoirs
The herring gull is a large seabird that is present on the coastline all around Britain. The species is also seen inland in towns and cities and at reservoirs.
The herring gull originally nested on rocky cliffs. It has adapted to the growth of Britain’s human population by learning to nest on buildings too. The herring gull’s familiar laughing call is now just as likely to be heard in some cities as it is at the seaside.
- Scientific Name: Passer domesticus
- Preferred Habitat: Cities, towns and villages.
The house sparrow is a common and well-loved British bird. It is well-known for its ability to live alongside man; a relationship that has lasted for around 10,000 years. The chirping of a group of house sparrows can often be heard emanating from urban hedges and bushes.
Although a widespread and common species, the house sparrow’s population has declined rapidly in recent years. Between 1977 and 2008 the species’ population fell by 71%. The species has largely disappeared from many cities.
- Scientific Name: Aegithalos caudatus
- Preferred Habitat: Woodlands, small town and country gardens.
The long tailed tit is one of Britain’s smallest birds. It looks like a round bundle of fluff with a long tail. It travels through the trees and bushes in small flocks. In the winter, long tailed tits will form foraging parties with other species of small birds, such as blue tits and great tits.
The long tailed tit roosts (sleeps) communally, with individuals huddled together for warmth. The species builds nests out of spider’s webs, moss and lichen.
- Scientific Name: Pica pica
- Preferred Habitat: Towns, farmland, gardens.
The magpie is one of Britain’s best-known birds. This large, black and white, long-tailed member of the crow family is often seen in towns and cities, as well as in rural areas.
If you look closely at the magpie’s plumage then you’ll notice that the dark areas, rather than being plain black, actually have a beautiful blue-green sheen.
The magpie is extremely intelligent, and can even identify itself in a mirror – something that most animals, and many humans under the age of two, are unable to do.
- Scientific Name: Anas platyrhynchos
- Preferred Habitat: Ponds, lakes, rivers, reservoirs.
Most people are able to identify the mallard – a duck that is likely to be seen on any body of water anywhere in Britain.
The male mallard has a chestnut-brown chest and a metallic green head, and is far more colourful than the plain brown female. Both male and female have blue patches with white borders on their wings.
Most domestic duck breeds are descended from the mallard.
- Scientific Name: Cygnus olor
- Preferred Habitat: Lakes, rivers, reservoirs
The mute swan is one of Britain’s biggest birds. It is one of three types of swan seen in Britain, and the only one to stay in Britain all year round (the whooper swan and Bewick’s swan are winter visitors).
The mute swan has an orange beak with a black bump known as a ‘knob’ at the top. The knob of the male is larger than that of the female.
A male swan is called a cob, the female a pen and the young are known as cygnets.
Mute swans can be aggressive; these powerful birds shouldn’t be approached!
- Scientific Name: Erithacus rubecula
- Preferred Habitat: Woodland, town and village gardens.
The robin is one of Britain’s best-known and best-loved birds. It has a rounded, brown and pale-brown body with a bright red face and chest.
Although the robin is present all year round, it is particularly associated with winter – perhaps because many other familiar species have by this time migrated south. The good old robin sticks with us through thick and thin!
The robin’s tuneful song can sometimes sound rather melancholy. In towns and cities robins sometimes sing at night.
They may seem cute to us, but robins are highly territorial and will aggressively defend their territories from outsiders!
- Scientific Name: Corvus frugilegus
- Preferred Habitat: Farmland
The rook is a large black bird present across much of Britain’s countryside. The rook is a highly social species. It is often seen foraging in flocks and sleeps in large communal roosts.
During the breeding season rooks form large breeding colonies known as rookeries. With large numbers of nests built close together high up in trees, rookeries can be very noisy places!
It is often said that if you see a single large black bird then it is a carrion crow, but that if there are several birds then they are rooks. Although this is often the case, carrion crows can also be seen in groups, so you’ll need to know other ways of telling the two species apart.
As we found in the carrion crow entry above, rooks can be distinguished from crows by their pale faces and featherless bills.
- Scientific Name: Turdus philomelos
- Preferred Habitat: Woodland, gardens, parks.
The song thrush is a blackbird-sized bird with a brown back and wings. Its chest is white and marked with black spots. The species is found in most parts of Great Britain, and is present all year round.
The song thrush has a loud, melodic song. A particular feature of the song is that phrases will be repeated several times before the bird moves on to the next phrase.
A song thrush will sing for long periods of time, continually inventing new phrases.
- Scientific Name: Sturnus vulgaris
- Preferred Habitat: Farmland, gardens, parks, coastal areas
The starling is a medium-sized black bird. The bills of both males and females are yellow in the summer and dark grey in the winter.
At first glance the starling may seem a rather plain bird. However, get closer and you’ll see that the feathers are spotted with white, and that the plumage has a beautiful multi-coloured sheen.
Although similar to the blackbird, the starling can be identified by its white spots and the pale edges of its feathers. Another thing to look out for is that when moving on the ground, starlings ‘walk’ while blackbirds make two-footed hops.
In the winter, starlings form large communal roosts. Before settling down for the night, the birds fly together in huge flocks, forming spectacular shapes in the evening sky. These flocks are known as ‘murmurations’. Murmurations have been known to consist of over one million starlings.
A large starling murmuration is one of Britain’s most impressive natural spectacles.
- Scientific Name: Strix aluco
- Preferred Habitat: Woodland
The tawny owl is Britain’s most common owl.
You may not often see a tawny owl, but if you live near any wooded area in Great Britain then you’ll almost certainly have heard one. The tawny owl is responsible for the familiar ‘twit twoo’ call that has become associated with all owls.
If you find yourself in the woods at night, try making an owl call yourself; sometimes a real tawny owl will answer you!
The tawny owl has streaky, pale brown plumage, making it very hard to see in the daytime.
The species hunts mainly by sound. When it’s raining the tawny owl has a hard time hearing the movements of its small rodent prey.
- Scientific Name: Columba palumbus
- Preferred Habitat: Woodland, farmland, gardens.
The wood pigeon is a large pigeon found throughout Britain. It can be identified by the white patch on either side of its neck and by the white ‘racing stripe’ on each of its wings.
The wood pigeon is noticeably larger than both the feral pigeon and the collared dove. Its call consists of a repetitive five note phrase.
- Scientific Name: Troglodytes troglodytes
- Preferred Habitat: Woodland, hedgerows, gardens, parks
The wren is one of the smallest British birds; only the goldcrest and firecrest are smaller. Although dull-brown in colour, the wren is easily identifiable due to its small size, round body and short tail, which is often held upright.
A wren’s song consists of a surprisingly loud flurry of notes, in the midst of which can often be heard a sustained trill. The call is usually head coming from thick vegetation at ear height or lower.
List of Common British Birds: Conclusion
We hope that you enjoyed finding out about these common British birds. Almost 600 bird species have been recorded in Britain. By learning the 25 birds in the list above you have taken a big step towards knowing every British species!
How many birds in the list above could you identify? How many have you seen? Let us know in the comments below!
- Don’t forget that you can see 25 slightly less common British bird species here: Birds of Britain
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