Birdwatcher, nature lover, and host of the Casual Birder podcast.
Mark chats with casual birder Suzy Buttress about features, song and flight.
Suzy has specific criteria she uses to judge the quality of birds (which makes her a List Envy natural): song, plumage, behaviour and impact on the garden. She also provides some great advice if you’re looking to feed the birds, without becoming the crazy pigeon lady from Home Alone, or spreading plants that shouldn’t be spread.
In order of discussion:
This nearly didn’t make Suzy’s list as it’s not obscure enough for a bird lover, but she appreciates the “gardener’s bird” for its beautiful song, iconic plumage, and its personality.
A small acrobatic garden bird with striking plumage, the blue tit provides good alarm calls for other birds, but you’ll want to keep them away from your fruit trees if you’re precious about your fruit.
Confusingly, only the male of the species is black, whereas female blackbirds are in fact brown. Regardless, their song is beautiful and you’ll hear it from rooftops… even if you’re trying to sleep (especially if you live in an area of light pollution).
Although the male’s plumage is much brighter in northern Europe, they’re still striking in their red and orange, with the females a coffee colour.
In order of discussion:
According to Suzy, goldfinches were originally kept in cages because they had such a beautiful song. If you’re maintaining your garden during the autumn, you might want to think about leaving thistles and dandelions around, as they provide seeds.
The UK has lost 70% of these little pinstriped birds, but have been introduced worldwide thanks to good old colonisation. Suzy especially appreciates listening to their gossipy tones, and thinks we need to do more to value them.
Once the most populous bird in the UK, this David Dickinson lookalike — to Mark’s eyes, at least — has a distinctive trill towards the end of its call. If you’re planning a visit to a stately home, you might see some chaffinches, so why not bring along some sunflower hearts?
These are smart, mischievous little blighters, that can attack, but have an interesting, chattery song that is often a warning of a looming threat.
They can be mistaken for juvenile blackbirds, and Mark has notes on their call, but the way they kill snails is pretty dark.