Bird Spotting Challenge – UK

Blackbird

The blackbird is about 25cm long and has a wingspan of 34 to 38cm.  The male has dark black-brown feathers and a yellow-orange beak, whilst the females are brown with spots and streaks to help camouflage them. They are very common and should be easy to spot in gardens eating berries, insects and worms.

It has a varied singsong call, which you can hear by clicking on the picture.

Spotability score 1/10

Wood Pigeon

One of Britain’s most common birds they can be found in the countryside and in urban areas. They have grey feathers and a pink-purple chest with a white patch around their neck. They are 40 to 42cm long and a wingspan of 75 to 80cm. They eat a wide range of food from crops on farmland to berries, nuts and seeds.

To hear its cooing birdsong, click on the picture.

Spotability score 1/10

Collared Dove

The collared dove can be found throughout the countryside and occasionally in urban areas. They have brown-grey feathers and a grey-pink chest with a black band around the back of their necks. They are 32cm long and have a wingspan of 51cm. Adults mate together for life so can often be seen in pairs. They like to eat seeds and grains as well as buds and shoots.

To hear its song, click on its picture.

Spotability score 2/10

Turtle Dove

Increasingly rare, you can consider yourself very lucky to catch sight of a turtle dove.

Despite being protected many are still shot as they migrate from Africa to Britain. They feed entirely on seed and grain mostly from farmland. Smaller than other doves, it has light and dark brown feathers with a grey-pink chest and a black and white circle near its neck.  They are 26 to 28cm long and have a wingspan of 47 to 53cm.

To hear its song, click on the picture.

 

Spotability score 10/10

Robin

The robin is Britain’s most popular bird and can be found in most British gardens where they like to feed on the worms and seeds that humans dig up whilst looking after their gardens.  They have grey-brown feathers, a very distinctive orange-red breast and whitish-grey stomach.  They are about 14cm long and has a wingspan of 20 to 22cm.

To hear its song, click on the picture.

Spotability score 1/10

Blue Tit

Despite its size, the blue tit is easy to spot in gardens and the countryside, especially as they tend to flock together when they find a good source of food.  Whilst it does have a blue head and wing feathers, it also has some green on its back and a yellow chest and belly. They have a wide range of foods including insects, caterpillars as well as nuts and seeds.  They are 12cm long and have a wingspan of 18cm.  To hear its song, please click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 2/10

Great Tit

Larger than its blue tit cousin, the great tit is still only 14cm long with a wingspan of 24cm.  It has a green back, with a black-striped wing feathers. Its head is black and white and it has a yellow chest and belly. Although fewer in number than other tits, it will aggressively fight them for seeds and nuts and is partial to all manner of insects.

To hear its song, click on its picture.

Spotability score 3/10

Magpie

Magpies are intelligent opportunists who will eat whatever is easiest to find.  They will eat carrion helping to clean up dead animals and scavenge human rubbish, but also hunt small mammals as well as other birds and their eggs during Spring and Summer.  They are relatively easy to spot, often flocking together, with their irridescent dark wing feathers, white chest and dark green tail.  The ones in Europe are 44 to 46cm long and have a wingspan of 52 to 60cm.

In the UK, we think of magpies as being black and white, but there are several different types and colours of magpies around the world.  The one in the picture is the Eurasian Magpie.

To hear its song, please click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 3/10

Rook

It can be difficult to tell the difference between the rook and its cousin the carrion crow, both are black and of a similar size.  However, the rook has a bare face and is more sociable, living in large flocks over the winter.  A true omnivore, they will eat pretty much anything smaller than itself, from insects, grains and nuts to mammals, birds and eggs.  It also plays an important role in the ecosystem eating dead animal bodies called carrion.  It is 44 to 46cm long and has a wingspan of 81 to 99cm.

To hear its rather grating call, click on its picture.

Spotability score 2/10

Crow

One of Britain’s most intelligent birds, a crow (properly called a carrion crow) can remember and tell the difference between humans who have been nice to them and those who have harmed them, years after the event.  All black, from beak-to-toe, the carrion crow, as its name suggests, feeds on dead animals (or carrion as it is known), but will also eat fruit and seeds as well as nuts and scavenge through human rubbish.  Unlike the rook it is far more likely to be seen by itself.  It is 45 to 47cm long and has a wingspan of 93 to 104cm.

To hear its caw, click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 3/10

Jackdaw

Unlike other crows the jackdaw does not feed on carrion, but is still an omnivore and scavenger.  It also eats insects, seeds, young birds and eggs.  It is somewhat smaller than the crow or rook and can be distinguished by its silvery head and pale eyes.  It is 34cm long and has wingspan of 70cm.

To hear its call, please click on its picture.

Spotability score 3/10

Nuthatch

Although it’s not threatened in the UK and lives here all year round, it is still a challenge to see a nuthatch as their numbers are not huge and they live mostly in woodland.  It has blue-grey wing feathers, with a black band across its eyes and a chestnut chest and belly.  They stay close to where they are born, feeding on insects, the nuts of hazel, oak and beech as well as seeds.  They are small, only 14cm long and have a wingspan of 23 to 27cm.  To hear its song, click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 4/10

Green Woodpecker

The green woodpecker loves to eat ants and does not peck at wood all that much.  Instead it likes to find ant colonies on the ground.  It is Britain’s largest woodpecker and although not endangered, there are only about 50,000 pairs breeding in the UK.  It has green wing feathers, a yellow tail, a white chest and belly with a red top to its head.  The male also has a short red band either side of its beak.  It is 30 to 34cm long and has a wingspan of 40 to 42cm.

To hear its song, click on the picture of two birds. To hear it drumming, click on the picture of a single bird.

 

Spotability score 6/10

Great Spotted Woodpecker

The greater spotted woodpecker is a shy bird who will often sneak round to the other side of a tree if they think they are being observed.  So, despite there being twice as many greater spotted as green woodpeckers, you might find them harder to spot.  You are far more likely to hear their distinctive pecking on tree barks, which sounds like drumming.  They do it to get at insects living in the tree.  They also like to feed on seeds and nuts.

The greater spotted woodpecker has black and white feathers along their back, a white chest and red on the underside of their tail.  Males also have a red band on the back of their heads.

To hear its song, click on the picture of two woodpeckers.

To hear its drumming, click on the picture of a single woodpecker.

Spotability score 5/10

House Sparrow

Once Britain’s most common bird, numbers of house sparrows have declined significantly in the last 40 years.  Despite this there are still several million left and numbers seem to be growing in Wales and Scotland, so, they should not be too hard to spot especially as they survive on the waste that humans create and love food left in gardens.  Females and males both have brown and black striped backs and wings and a grey-brown chest and breast.  The colouring of their backs is copied on the female’s face, whilst the male has white cheeks and black around its throat and eyes.  They are 14cm long and have a wingspan of 21 to 25cm.

To hear their song, please click on their picture.

 

 

Spotability score 3/10

Thrush

It was once common to hear song thrush in nearly every garden in the UK. but their numbers decreased dramatically towards the end of the last century.  Their plumage helps them to camouflage in the hedgerows where they make their homes, being brown on top and mottled below.  They like to feed on snails, bashing their shells to get to the flesh within, but are also partial to worms and fruit.  They are probably best known for their beautiful song which they repeat at regular intervals. They are 23cm long and have a wingspan of 33 to 36cm.

To hear a thrush’s song, please click her picture.

 

Spotability score 4/10

Chaffinch

The chaffinch is one of Britain’s most common birds and is most easily seen when it’s searching for food on the ground or darting in and out of hedgerows.  The female is well-camouflaged with a brown and black top and a cream-brown chest.  The male is more colourful, with a blue hood, copper-pink chest, and black-and-white striped wings in flight, but it is less visible on the ground with its brown back and the white of it wings almost completely hidden when retracted.  They feed on insects and seeds. They are 14cm long and have a wingspan of 24 to 28cm.  They are sometimes mistaken for a bullfinch, but the bullfinch colouring is much more red and not so pink.

To hear their song, please click on their picture.

 

 

Spotability score 2/10

Goldfinch

The goldfinch is very colourful and relatively easy to spot in the garden and close to the house as well.  It has a slightly longer beak, compared to other finches, that allows it to pick at seeds that are nestled in thorns and also to catch insects.

Its yellow-brown back leads to striking yellow and black wings with a largely white chest.  Its face is red with a black band around its eyes.  It is 12cm long and has a wingspan of 21 to 25cm.

To hear its song, please click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 2/10

Greenfinch

Like many finches, the greenfinch takes advantage of bird seed left in gardens and so can be relatively easy to spot whether in the countryside or town garden.  It also helps that so many of its feathers are a bright green and yellow, with but a small bit of grey on its wing.  It has a distinctive song and a stronger and stouter-looking beak than most finches.  It is known to fight over food so keep an eye out for that too.  It is 15cm long and has a wingspan of 26cm.

To hear their song, please click on the picture.

 

 

Spotability score 3/10

Pied Flycatcher

Although pied flycatchers are not endangered around the world, there are now fewer than 20,000 breeding pairs in the UK.  This means that they’re quite rare in the UK and gives them a high Spotability Score.  Most of them migrate over from West Africa because they like warm weather, so you are more likely to see them in the summer.  As their name suggests, they catch insects whilst on the wing, but also feed on caterpillars, seeds and nuts.  The males are mostly black on top, with a white stripe along their wing and the top of their head, with a white chest. They give the impression of being black and white.  The females look similar, but have many more brown feathers on the top half and no white band on their head, so they look much more brown.  They are 13cm long with a wingspan of 21 to 24cm.

To hear its song, please click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 8/10

Herring Gull

Most of us call them just seagulls, but seagulls is really the name for all types of gull.  The herring gull is a large, noisy and opportunistic scavenger that takes advantage of the waste that humans leave behind.  Despite being easy to spot, their numbers have been in decline over the last few decades. This is because Britain’s fishing fleet has got smaller and less wasteful, leaving far less food for gulls in general.  Many gulls have started coming inland where they come into conflict with humans due to their aggressive nature.

They are much bigger birds than we think, perhaps because we always see them against a huge sea background.  They are 54 to 60cm long and have a wingspan of 130 to 150cm.

How can you tell the difference between Herring Gulls and Common Gulls?

To hear their song, please click on the picture.

 

 

Spotability score 2/10

Common Gull

The smaller cousin of the herring gull, the common gull, has in fact got a smaller population – despite its name.  Whilst they are becoming easier to see inland, you are far more likely to see them by the coast.  Their numbers have dropped due to the declining British fishing industry, but luckily, they also eat insects, worms and human rubbish.  They have a speckled grey face and yellow-orange beak, a white body and grey wings with black tips on the end.

They are quite big birds, but not as big as the herring gull at 40cm long and have a wingspan of 110 to 130cm long.

How can you tell the difference between Herring Gulls and Common Gulls?

To hear its song, please click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 4/10

Swan

The swan is one of the largest birds to be found in and around ponds and wetlands in the UK.  Its numbers have been back on the rise as we have cleaned up our waterways and so it should be easy to spot.  They are all white except for their black and orange beak, which also has a black knob on the top.  Their long powerful necks allow them to feed on plants under the water and help them to find water insects and snails.  They are big birds at 140 to 160cm long and have a wingspan of 210 to 230cm.  Their white feathers make them look soft and cuddly, but they can be very aggressive if they are guarding their young which are called cygnets.  Swans are extremely strong and have been known to break a person’s arm.

In the UK, all swans are owned by the Queen.

The swan’s call can be heard by clicking on the photo.

 

 

Spotability score 2/10

Canada Goose

As the name suggests, the Canada goose was introduced to Europe from North America.  The European climate is very much to its liking and so has spread across the continent.  A vegetarian, it really likes feeding on grass and
roots and so is commonly found in parkland.  It has a long black neck and head with a white patch around its throat.  Its body and wings are different shades of mottled brown and it has a white bottom. It is a big bird, similar in size to the mute swan, 90 to 110cm long and has a wingspan of 150 to 180cm.

To hear its honk, please click here.

 

Spotability score 3/10

Barnacle Goose

Barnacle goose numbers are fairly stable, but not particularly high, so it may be a challenge to spot one – especially in the Summer and Spring when they return to the northernmost parts of Europe.  Its neck is black like the Canada goose, but it has a larger white patch that covers its throat and face, and a stubbier beak.  Its body is mottled grey and white with a black tail.  It is a bit smaller than the Canada Goose at 60 to 70cm long and has a wingspan of 130 to 145cm.

To hear its honk, please click on its photo.

 

 

Spotability score 5/10

Mallard (duck)

The mallard is a common sight on ponds, waterways and wetlands in the UK and is a popular bird.  The female has light and brown camouflaged feathers, with a yellow-orange beak and a small purple patch at the back of its body.  The male has an iridescent green head and yellow beak, a dark brown chest, grey body and wings and darker tail.  It gets much of its food from water plants, but also shellfish, berries and seeds.  Mallards are 50 to 60cm long and have a wingspan of 80 to 95cm.

It has a distinctive quack that you can hear by clicking on their picture.

 

Spotability score 1/10

Eider (duck)

The eider is a seaduck that used to be farmed across northern Europe for its warming down feathers which were used for bedding.  Feeding entirely on shellfish, you will need to live near (or visit) the coast if you want to spot one of these.  The male has a black hood over the top of its head and a white chest and top, whilst the rest of it is black.  Like many female ducks, the female has camouflaged light and dark brown feathers that hide her from predators when nesting.  The eider is 50 to 70cm long and has a wingspan of 80 to 105cm wingspan.

Its unusual call can be heard by clicking on the picture.

 

 

Spotability score 7/10

Mandarin (duck)

The Mandarin duck has only a few thousand breeding pairs in Britain, so they’re quite rare.  It comes originally from China.  The male has beautiful varied plumage of orange-brown, green, white and black, whilst the female is largely brown with green tips of its wings. Like the mallard it feeds on plants, insects and seeds. It has a length of 45cm and a wingspan of 70cm.

Its call is more of a chirp than a quack and you can hear it by clicking on their picture.

 

Spotability score 6/10

Moorhen

Moorhens are a common sight on northern European waterways and wetlands.  They have very dark brown plumage on top and dark blue underneath making them look almost black all over.  Their multicoloured beak has
a yellow tip, red middle and orange end running up their head.  Mating couples will aggressively defend their nest from other birds and predators but will hide in reeds if disturbed.  They feed on water plants, minibeasts, snails and even small fish.  They are 35cm long and have a wingspan of 50 to 55cm.

To hear their distinctive call, click on the picture.

 

 

Spotability score 3/10

Swallow

There are about 90 different types of swallow around the world.  The name strictly includes house martins and swifts and the ones that visit Britain in the summer, migrate from Africa and are properly called ‘barn swallows’.  All swallows have short, wide beaks and spend most of their adult life in the air.  Their skill at catching flying insects is amazing as they wheel around the sky and they are much easier to spot in the air than when they’re resting.  As the name suggests, barn swallows like to nest in the alcoves of barns or buildings where they can protect their young from predators.  They are black on top with largely black wings and a white breast.  They have red throats and long, forked tails.  They are small birds, just 18cm long with a wingspan of 32 to 35cm.

Their song is quite complex and you can hear it by clicking on the photo.

 

Spotability score 5/10

House Martin

Like its bigger cousin, the swallow, the house martin spends much of its time in flight catching flying insects and it too migrates to northern Europe from Africa in the summer.  It is slightly smaller and there are fewer of them so may be slightly harder to spot.  Their tails are very different from a swallow’s though because they are almost square across the bottom.

They make amazing mud nests on the sides of buildings, usually at the tops of walls just under the roof overhang, that make it very hard for predators to attack.  They have dark blue and black wings and the top of their head which hoods over their eyes.  They have a white spot on their back just before their dark tail and a white breast and throat.  They are just 12cm long and have a wingspan of 28cm.

You can hear their chirping song by clicking on their picture.

 

 

Spotability score 6/10

Swift

Swifts look as if they are in the same family as swallows and house martins, but are in fact more closely related to the hummingbird.  They have evolved to look very similar because they have similar behaviour, spending almost all their lives in flight and eating flying insects, migrating up and down from Africa and nesting in small alcoves in buildings.  They arrive in northern Europe much later than swallows and swifts and then leave much earlier, so they will be even trickier to spot.  They are almost entirely black with a white throat.  At 17cm it is about the same length as a swallow, but has a wider, v-shaped tail and a longer wingspan of 42 to 48cm.

It has a very high-pitched call. Listen to it by clicking on the photo.

 

Spotability score 7/10

We hope you have had fun looking at birds!

Please email us and let us know what your Spotability score is!

Blackbird

The blackbird is about 25cm long and has a wingspan of 34 to 38cm.  The male has black-brown feathers and a yellow-orange beak, whilst the females are brown with spots and streaks to help camouflage them. They are very common and should be easy to spot in gardens eating berries, insects and worms.

They have a varied singsong call, which you can hear by clicking on their picture.

Spotability score 1/10

Common Wood Pigeon

One of Britain’s most common birds they can be found in the countryside and in urban areas. They have grey feathers and a pink-purple chest with a white patch around their neck. They are 40 to 42cm long and a wingspan of 75 to 80cm. They eat a wide range of food from crops on farmland to berries, nuts and seeds.

To hear its cooing, click on its picture.

Spotability score 1/10

Collared Dove

The collared dove can be found throughout the countryside and occasionally in urban areas. They have brown-grey feathers and a grey-pink chest with a black band around the back of their necks. They are 32cm long and have a wingspan of 51cm. Adults mate together for life so can often be seen in pairs. They like to eat seeds and grains as well as buds and shoots.

To hear its song, please click on its picture.

Spotability score 2/10

Turtle Dove

Increasingly rare, you can consider yourself very lucky to catch sight of a turtle dove.

Despite being protected many are still shot as they migrate from Africa to Britain. They feed entirely on seed and grain mostly from farmland. Smaller than other doves, it has light and dark brown feathers with a grey-pink chest and a black and white circle near its neck.  They are 26 to 28cm long and have a wingspan of 47 to 53cm.

To hear its soft call, please click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 10/10

Robin

The robin is Britain’s most popular bird and can be found in most British gardens where they like to feed on the worms and seeds that humans dig up whilst looking after their gardens.  They have grey-brown feathers, a very distinctive orange-red breast and whitish belly.  The robin is 14cm long and has a wingspan of 20 to 22cm.

To hear its song, click on its photo.

Spotability score 1/10

Blue Tit

Despite its size, the blue tit is easy to spot in gardens and the countryside, especially as they tend to flock together when they find a good source of food.  Whilst it does have a blue head and wing feathers, it also has some green on its back and a yellow chest and belly. They have a wide range of foods including insects, caterpillars as well as nuts and seeds.  They are 12cm long and have a wingspan of 18cm.

To hear its song, please click on the photo.

 

Spotability score 2/10

Great Tit

Larger than its blue tit cousin, the great tit is still only 14cm long with a wingspan of 24cm.  It has a green back, with a black-striped wing feathers. Its head is black and white and it has a yellow chest and belly. Although fewer in number than other tits, it will aggressively fight them for seeds and nuts and is partial to all manner of insects.

To hear its song, click on its picture.

Spotability score 3/10

Magpie

Magpies are intelligent opportunists who will eat whatever is easiest to find.  They will eat carrion helping to clean up dead animals and scavenge human rubbish, but also hunt small mammals as well as other birds and their eggs during Spring and Summer.  They are relatively easy to spot, often flocking together, with their irridescent dark wing feathers, white chest and dark green tail.  The ones in Europe are 44 to 46cm long and have a wingspan of 52 to 60cm.

In the UK, we think of magpies as being black and white, but there are several different types and colours of magpies around the world.  The one in the picture is the Eurasian Magpie.

To hear its song, click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 3/10

Rook

It can be difficult to tell the difference between the rook and its cousin the carrion crow.  Because both are black and of a similar size.  However, the rook has a bare face and is more sociable, living in large flocks over the winter.  A true omnivore, they will eat pretty much anything smaller than itself, from insects, grains and nuts to mammals, birds and eggs.  It also plays an important role in the ecosystem eating dead animal bodies called carrion.  It is 44 to 46cm long and has a wingspan of 81 to 99cm. 

To hear its call, click on the photo.

Spotability score 2/10

Crow

One of Britain’s most intelligent birds, a crow (properly called a carrion crow) can remember and tell the difference between humans who have been nice to them and those who have harmed them, years after the event.  All black, from beak-to-toe, the carrion crow, as its name suggests, feeds on dead animals (or carrion as it is known), but will also eat fruit and seeds as well as nuts and scavenge through human rubbish.  Unlike the rook it is far more likely to be seen by itself.  It is 45 to 47cm long and has a wingspan of 93 to 104cm.

To hear its caw, click on its picture.

 

Spotability score 3/10

Jackdaw

Unlike other crows the jackdaw does not feed on carrion, but is still an omnivore and scavenger.  It also eats insects, seeds, young birds and eggs.  It is somewhat smaller than the crow or rook and can be distinguished by its silvery head and pale eyes.  It is 34cm long and has wingspan of 70cm.

To hear its call, please click on its picture.

Spotability score 3/10

Nuthatch

Although it’s not threatened in the UK and lives here all year round, it is still a challenge to see a nuthatch as their numbers are not huge and they live mostly in woodland.  It has blue-grey wing feathers, with a black band across its eyes and a chestnut chest and stomach.  They stay close to where they are born, feeding on insects, the nuts of hazel, oak and beech as well as seeds.  They are small, only 14cm long and have a wingspan of 23 to 27cm.  To hear its song, click here.

 

Spotability score 4/10

Green Woodpecker

The green woodpecker loves to eat ants and doesn’t really peck at wood all that much.  Instead it likes to find ant colonies on the ground.  It is Britain’s largest woodpecker and although not endangered, there are only about 50,000 pairs breeding in the UK.  It has green wing feathers, a yellow tail, a white chest and belly with a red top to its head.  The male also has a short red band either side of its beak.  It is 30 to 34cm long and has a wingspan of 40 to 42cm.

To hear its song, click on the picture of two birds.

To hear its drumming, please click on the picture of a single bird.

 

Spotability score 6/10

Great Spotted Woodpecker

The greater spotted woodpecker is a shy bird who will often sneak round to the other side of a tree if they think they are being observed.  So, despite there being twice as many greater spotted as green woodpeckers, you might find them harder to spot.  You are far more likely to hear their distinctive pecking on tree barks, which sounds like drumming.  They do it to get at insects living in the tree.  They also like to feed on seeds and nuts.

The greater spotted woodpecker has black and white feathers along their back, a white chest and red on the underside of their tail.  Males also have a red band on the back of their heads.

To hear its song, please click on the picture of two birds.

To hear its drumming, click on the picture of the single bird.

Spotability score 5/10

House Sparrow

Once Britain’s most common bird, numbers of house sparrows have declined significantly in the last 40 years.  Despite this there are still several million left and numbers seem to be growing in Wales and Scotland, so, they should not be too hard to spot especially as they survive on the waste that humans create and love food left in gardens.  Females and males both have brown and black striped backs and wings and a grey-brown chest and breast.  The colouring of their backs is copied on the female’s face, whilst the male has white cheeks and black around its throat and eyes.  They are 14cm long and have a wingspan of 21 to 25cm.

To hear their song, please click on the picture.

 

 

Spotability score 3/10

Song Thrush

It was once common to hear a song thrush in nearly every garden in the UK. but their numbers decreased dramatically towards the end of the last century.  Their plumage helps them to camouflage in the hedgerows where they make their homes, being brown on top and mottled below.  They like to feed on snails, bashing their shells to get to the flesh within, but are also partial to worms and fruit.  They are probably best known for their beautiful song which they repeat at regular intervals. They are 23cm long and have a wingspan of 33 to 36cm.

To hear a thrush’s song, please click on the photo.

 

Spotability score 4/10

Chaffinch

The chaffinch is one of Britain’s most common birds and is most easily seen when it’s searching for food on the ground or darting in and out of hedgerows.  The female is well-camouflaged with a brown and black top and a cream-brown chest.  The male is more colourful, with a blue hood, copper-pink chest, and black-and-white striped wings in flight, but it is less visible on the ground with its brown back and the white of it wings almost completely hidden when retracted.  They feed on insects and seeds. They are 14cm long and have a wingspan of 24 to 28cm.  They are sometimes mistaken for a bullfinch, but the bullfinch colouring is much more red and not so pink.

To hear their song, please click on their photo.

 

 

Spotability score 2/10

Goldfinch

The goldfinch is very colourful and relatively easy to spot in the garden and close to the house as well.  It has a slightly longer beak, compared to other finches, that allows it to pick at seeds that are nestled in thorns and also to catch insects.

Its yellow-brown back leads to striking yellow and black wings with a largely white chest.  Its face is red with a black band around its eyes.  It is 12cm long and has a wingspan of 21 to 25cm.

To hear its song, please click the photo.

 

Spotability score 2/10

Greenfinch

Like many finches, the greenfinch takes advantage of bird seed left in gardens and so can be relatively easy to spot whether in the countryside or town garden.  It also helps that so many of its feathers are a bright green and yellow, with but a small bit of grey on its wing.  It has a distinctive song and a stronger and stouter-looking beak than most finches.  It is known to fight over food so keep an eye out for that too.  It is 15cm long and has a wingspan of 26cm.

To hear their song, please click on the picture.

 

 

Spotability score 3/10

Pied Flycatcher

Although pied flycatchers are not endangered around the world, there are now fewer than 20,000 breeding pairs in the UK.  This means that they’re quite rare in the UK and gives them a high Spotability Score.  Most of them migrate over from West Africa because they like warm weather, so you are more likely to see them in the summer.  As their name suggests, they catch insects whilst on the wing, but also feed on caterpillars, seeds and nuts.  The males are mostly black on top, with a white stripe along their wing and the top of their head, with a white chest. They give the impression of being black and white.  The females look similar, but have many more brown feathers on the top half and no white band on their head, so they look much more brown.  They are 13cm long with a wingspan of 21 to 24cm.

To hear its song, please click on the picture.

 

Spotability score 8/10

Herring Gull

Most of us call them just seagulls, but seagulls is really the name for all types of gull.  The herring gull is a large, noisy and opportunistic scavenger that takes advantage of the waste that humans leave behind.  Despite being easy to spot, their numbers have been in decline over the last few decades. This is because Britain’s fishing fleet has got smaller and less wasteful, leaving far less food for gulls in general.  Many gulls have started coming inland where they come into conflict with humans due to their aggressive nature.

They are much bigger birds than we think, perhaps because we always see them against a huge sea background.  They are 54 to 60cm long and have a wingspan of 130 to 150cm.

How can you tell the difference between Herring Gulls and Common Gulls?

To hear their cry, please click on the photo.

 

 

Spotability score 2/10

Common Gull

The smaller cousin of the herring gull, the common gull, has in fact got a smaller population – despite its name.  Whilst they are becoming easier to see inland, you are far more likely to see them by the coast.  Their numbers have dropped due to the declining British fishing industry, but luckily, they also eat insects, worms and human rubbish.  They have a speckled grey face and yellow-orange beak, a white body and grey wings with black tips on the end.

They are quite big birds, but not as big as the herring gull at 40cm long and have a wingspan of 110 to 130cm long.

How can you tell the difference between Herring Gulls and Common Gulls?

To hear its song, please click on the picture.

 

Spotability score 4/10

Swan

The swan is one of the largest birds to be found in and around ponds and wetlands in the UK.  Its numbers have been back on the rise as we have cleaned up our waterways and so it should be easy to spot.  They are all white except for their black and orange beak, which also has a black knob on the top.  Their long powerful necks allow them to feed on plants under the water and help them to find water insects and snails.  They are big birds at 140 to 160cm long and have a wingspan of 210 to 230cm.  Their white feathers make them look soft and cuddly, but they can be very aggressive if they are guarding their young which are called cygnets.  Swans are extremely strong and have been known to break a person’s arm.

In the UK, all swans are owned by the Queen.

The swan’s call can be heard by clicking on the photo.

 

 

Spotability score 2/10

Canada Goose

As the name suggests, the Canada goose was introduced to Europe from North America.  The European climate is very much to its liking and so has spread across the continent.  A vegetarian, it really likes feeding on grass and
roots and so is commonly found in parkland.  It has a long black neck and head with a white patch around its throat.  Its body and wings are different shades of mottled brown and it has a white bottom. It is a big bird, similar in size to the mute swan, 90 to 110cm long and has a wingspan of 150 to 180cm.

To hear its honk, please click on the photo.

 

Spotability score 3/10

Barnacle Goose

Barnacle goose numbers are fairly stable, but not particularly high, so it may be a challenge to spot one – especially in the Summer and Spring when they return to the northernmost parts of Europe.  Its neck is black like the Canada goose, but it has a larger white patch that covers its throat and face, and a stubbier beak.  Its body is mottled grey and white with a black tail.  It is a bit smaller than the Canada Goose at 60 to 70cm long and has a wingspan of 130 to 145cm.

To hear its honk, please click on the photo.

 

 

Spotability score 5/10

Mallard (duck)

The mallard is a common sight on ponds, waterways and wetlands in the UK and is a popular bird.  The female has light and brown camouflaged feathers, with a yellow-orange beak and a small purple patch at the back of its body.  The male has an iridescent green head and yellow beak, a dark brown chest, grey body and wings and darker tail.  It gets much of its food from water plants, but also shellfish, berries and seeds.  Mallards are 50 to 60cm long and have a wingspan of 80 to 95cm.

It has a distinctive quack that you can hear by clicking on the photo.

 

Spotability score 1/10

Eider (duck)

The eider is a seaduck that used to be farmed across northern Europe for its warming down feathers which were used for bedding.  Feeding entirely on shellfish, you will need to live near (or visit) the coast if you want to spot one of these.  The male has a black hood over the top of its head and a white chest and top, whilst the rest of it is black.  Like many female ducks, the female has camouflaged light and dark brown feathers that hide her from predators when nesting.  The eider is 50 to 70cm long and has a wingspan of 80 to 105cm wingspan.

Its unusual call can be heard by clicking on the photo below.

 

 

Spotability score 7/10

Mandarin (duck)

The Mandarin duck has only a few thousand breeding pairs in Britain, so they’re quite rare.  It comes originally from China.  The male has beautiful varied plumage of orange-brown, green, white and black, whilst the female is largely brown with green tips of its wings. Like the mallard it feeds on plants, insects and seeds. It has a length of 45cm and a wingspan of 70cm.

Its call is more of a chirp than a quack that can be heard by clicking on the photo below.

 

Spotability score 6/10

Moorhen

Moorhens are a common sight on northern European waterways and wetlands.  They have very dark brown plumage on top and dark blue underneath making them look almost black all over.  Their multicoloured beak has a yellow tip, red middle and orange end running up their head.  Mating couples will aggressively defend their nest from other birds and predators but will hide in reeds if disturbed.  They feed on water plants, minibeasts, snails and even small fish.  They are 35cm long and have a wingspan of 50 to 55cm.

To hear their distinctive call, click on the photo.

 

 

Spotability score 3/10

Swallow

There are about 90 different types of swallow around the world.  The name strictly includes house martins and swifts and the ones that visit Britain in the summer, migrate from Africa and are properly called ‘barn swallows’.  All swallows have short, wide beaks and spend most of their adult life in the air.  Their skill at catching flying insects is amazing as they wheel around the sky and they are much easier to spot in the air than when they’re resting.  As the name suggests, barn swallows like to nest in the alcoves of barns or buildings where they can protect their young from predators.  They are black on top with largely black wings and a white breast.  They have red throats and long, forked tails.  They are small birds, just 18cm long with a wingspan of 32 to 35cm.

Their song is quite complex and you can hear it by clicking on the photo below.

 

Spotability score 5/10

House Martin

Like its bigger cousin, the swallow, the house martin spends much of its time in flight catching flying insects and it too migrates to northern Europe from Africa in the summer.  It is slightly smaller and there are fewer of them so may be slightly harder to spot.  Their tails are very different from a swallow’s though because they are almost square across the bottom.

They make amazing mud nests on the sides of buildings, usually at the tops of walls just under the roof overhang, that make it very hard for predators to attack.  They have dark blue and black wings and the top of their head which hoods over their eyes.  They have a white spot on their back just before their dark tail and a white breast and throat.  They are just 12cm long and have a wingspan of 28cm.

You can hear their chirping song by clicking on the photo below.

 

 

Spotability score 6/10

Swift

Swifts look as if they are in the same family as swallows and house martins, but are in fact more closely related to the hummingbird.  They have evolved to look very similar because they have similar behaviour, spending almost all their lives in flight and eating flying insects, migrating up and down from Africa and nesting in small alcoves in buildings.  They arrive in northern Europe much later than swallows and swifts and then leave much earlier, so they will be even trickier to spot.  They are almost entirely black with a white throat.  At 17cm it is about the same length as a swallow, but has a wider, v-shaped tail and a longer wingspan of 42 to 48cm.

It has a high-pitched call, that you can hear by clicking on the picture below.

 

Spotability score 7/10

We hope you have had fun looking at birds!

Please email us and let us know what your Spotability score is!

You may well see other types of birds where you live.  Please let us know if you see any birds that we haven’t got in the Birdspotter Challenge.

If you can, please send us a photo too and tell us where you saw them.  Who knows, we could even add them to the Birdspotter Challenge!