Noisy and gregarious, these cheerful exploiters of man's rubbish and wastefulness, have even managed to colonise most of the world. The ultimate opportunist perhaps, but now struggling to survive in the UK along with many other once common birds. They are clearly declining in both gardens and the wider countryside and their recent declines have earned them a place on the Red List. (Info from www.rspb.org.uk)
A small black crow with a grey neck and pale eyes. It is sociable and usually seen in pairs or larger groups. It is quite and acrobatic flier and flocks will often chase and tumble together in flight. On the ground it both walks and hops. (Info from www.rspb.org.uk)
Family: Crows and allies (Corvidae)
Although they are the most colourful members of the crow family, jays are actually quite difficult to see. They are shy woodland birds, rarely moving far from cover. The screaming call usually lets you know a jay is about and it is usually given when a bird is on the move, so watch for a bird flying between the trees with its distinctive flash of white on the rump. Jays are famous for their acorn feeding habits and in the autumn you may see them burying acorns for retrieving later in the winter.
Latin name: Falco tinnunculus
A familiar sight with its pointed wings and long tail, hovering beside a roadside verge. Kestrels have been recently declining as a result of habitat degradation due to continuing intensive management of farmland and so it is included on the Amber List. They have adapted readily to man-made environments and can survive right in the centre of cities.
Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats, from moor and heath, to farmland and urban areas. The only places they do not favour are dense forests, vast treeless wetlands and mountains. They are a familiar sight, hovering beside a motorway, or other main road. They can often be seen perched on a high tree branch, or on a telephone post or wire, on the look out for prey.
What they eat: Small mammals and birds
(Info courtesy of www.rspb.org.uk)
Latin name: Alcedo atthis
Kingfishers are small unmistakable bright blue and orange birds of slow moving or still water. They fly rapidly, low over water, and hunt fish from riverside perches, occasionally hovering above the water's surface. They are a vulnerable to hard winters and habitat degradation through pollution or unsympathetic management of watercourses. Kingfishers are amber listed because of their unfavourable conservation status in Europe.
Where to see them
They are widespread, especially in central and southern England, becoming less common further north but following some declines last century, they are currently increasing in their range in Scotland. Kingfishers are found by still or slow flowing water such as lakes, canals and rivers in lowland areas. In winter, some individuals move to estuaries and the coast. Occasionally they may visit garden ponds if of a suitable size.
When to see them
All year round.
What they eat
Fish and aquatic insects.
(Info from www.rspb.org.uk)
AKA: Northern lapwing
Also known as the peewit in imitation of its display calls, its proper name describes its wavering flight. Its black and white appearance and round-winged shape in flight make it distinctive, even without its splendid crest. This familiar farmland bird has suffered significant declines in the last 25 years and is an Amber List' species because of the importance of its UK wintering population.
Family: Finches (Fringillidae)
A small, slim finch, widely distributed, and once very popular as a cage bird because of its melodious song. Males are attractively marked with crimson foreheads and breasts, females much browner. It can be flighty and has an undulating flight, usually twittering as it flies. Now it is declining, in common with many other birds which use farmland, and is a Red List species.
While widespread across the UK, there are concentrations along the east coast from Kent to Aberdeenshire but they are scarce in upland regions and north west Scotland. Look for it on commons, heathland, rough ground, farmland hedges, saltmarshes and in parks and gardens.
Long tailed tit
The long-tailed tit is easily recognisable with its distinctive colouring, a tail that is bigger than its body, and undulating flight. Gregarious and noisy residents, long-tailed tits are most usually noticed in small, excitable flocks of about 20 birds. Like most tits, they rove the woods and hedgerows, but are also seen on heaths and commons with suitable bushes.
(Info from www.rspb.org.uk)
AKA: Black-billed magpie (N America)
Magpies seem to be jacks of all trades – scavengers, predators and pest-destroyers, their challenging, almost arrogant attitude has won them few friends. With its noisy chattering, black-and-white plumage and long tail, there is nothing else quite like the magpie in the UK. When seen close-up its black plumage takes on an altogether more colourful hue with a purplish-blue iridescent sheen to the wing feathers, and a green gloss to the tail. Non-breeding birds will gather together in flocks. (Info from www.rspb.org.uk)
Not distinguished from the willow tit as a separate species until 1897, the marsh tit is smart, clean looking bird with a small, well defined black bib and glossy black cap. As with so many woodland birds, its call is the best way of locating it. It feeds acrobatically and will hoard food if it finds a good supply. Recent population declines make this a Red List species.
The moorhen is a medium-sized, ground-dwelling bird, that is usually found near water. From a distance it looks black with a ragged white line along its body. Up close it is olive-brown on the back and the head and underneath are blue-grey. It has a red bill with a yellow tip. It breeds in the UK in lowland areas, especially in central and eastern England. It is scarce in northern Scotland and the uplands of Wales and northern England. UK breeding birds are residents and seldom travel far.
(Info from www.rspb.org.uk)
Latin name: Sitta europaea
The nuthatch is a plump bird about the size of a great tit that resembles a small woodpecker. It is blue-grey above and whitish below, with chestnut on its sides and under its tail. It has a black stripe on its head, a long black pointed bill, and short legs. It breeds in central and southern England and in Wales, and is resident, with birds seldom travelling far from the woods where they hatch.
Best looked for in mature woods and established parkland in central and southern England and Wales, on the sides of tree trunks and underside of branches. Occasional sightings in Scotland.