Top 5 UK garden birds

24 March, 2020
Episode notes

Guest

Suzy Buttress

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.

Honourable mentions

Suzy’s picks

In order of discussion:

Robin

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.

Blue tit

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.

Blackbird

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).

Bullfinch

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.

Mark’s picks

In order of discussion:

Goldfinch

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.

House sparrow

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.

Chaffinch

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?

Magpie

These are smart, mischievous little blighters, that can attack, but have an interesting, chattery song that is often a warning of a looming threat.

Song thrush

They can be mistaken for juvenile blackbirds, and Mark has notes on their call, but the way they kill snails is pretty dark.

More of Suzy Buttress

Listen to the Casual Birder podcast, and get all Suzy’s contact details on her website.

Links