Migrating Birds to Look Out For in Winter
Over autumn we saw many birds leaving the UK in search of warmer climes further south. Swallows famously and rather spectacularly head to Africa as the weather starts to turn. But, we also say a temporary good bye to other species, including warblers, martins, swifts, cuckoos and turtle doves.
Whilst some birds (and some lucky humans) seek a little sunshine at the coldest and darkest time of year, others birds find a British winter mild and hospitable in comparison to the plunging temperatures of their own summer homes. Birds from Canada, Scandinavia and Eastern Europe migrate to the UK during autumn months to enjoy a better food supply and warmer temperatures.
In the spring, they’ll travel back to their breeding grounds further east and north. But in the meantime, we can sometimes see a few new visitors to our gardens. Here are a couple of migrating birds to look out for in winter and how to spot them:
Fieldfares have the appearance of a large thrush but are more colourful in comparison. They have a yellow and white breast and a grey head. Generally seen in the countryside, in hedgerows and in fields, they sometimes venture into gardens if the winter is particularly cold and a snowfall has covered their usual habitat. Fieldfares are social birds, spending their time in flocks that range from 25 or so to several hundred.
The redwing is the UK’s smallest thrush. Its most distinctive feature is an orange-red patch along both of its flanks. These birds make their homes amongst the hedgerows and fields of the countryside, a great source for the berries and worms they like to eat. They’ll also venture into gardens during a cold snap.
Bramblings are very similar to chaffinches in shape and size. The male brambling has an orange breast and a white belly whilst females have slightly more muted colouring. These birds are most commonly seen in woodland and in gardens, where they can feast on their favourite winter food – seeds.
There are likely to be some other newcomers to your garden in winter, although they’ll be more difficult to spot. Starlings, chaffinches, robins, lapwings, coots and blackbirds all migrate from colder countries in winter, joining birds of the same species who live in the UK year-round.
With so many visitors to cater for, any food you leave out for the birds is likely to be gratefully and hungrily received. If you’d like to provide food, give a special winter bird seed mix that contains more fat content and greater nutrition for your garden birds at this time of year.
- Nikki Boxwild