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What's that bird?

Posted by: Jenny Middleton
Posted on: 02 May 2017
Posted in


Did you realise how many birds we come into contact with every day! They’re all around us, but most of the time we’re distracted by other things and don’t really pay them any attention.

I was lucky enough to be invited to walk through our foot safari with an expert birder, Romney Yeoman Walker and our native bird champion and safari conservationist Heather Cunningham. With little experience at bird spotting myself this was a great opportunity to learn a little more about our native species.



My first spot: a robin! Most of us will have seen a robin before, whether out in nature, or just pictured in a snowy Christmas scene. Easily spotted by its bright red breast, the robin may be one of the only birds most of us can confidently identify in our own garden. That’s why I’ve created this list of simple ways to spot some of your garden feathered visitors. Keep your eyes peeled!


Long-tailed tit

This cute little bird is a likely visitor to many of our gardens. They’re black and white with some pink feathers too, but it’s the flash of white and black you’re more likely to spot. As its name suggests, the long-tailed tit has a pretty long tail. In fact it’s almost longer than its body! Plus if it’s a long-tailed tit you can see, it won’t be long before you see its friends too. They travel one after each other, only flying over a short space each time.

Key things to look out for:

  • Long tail
  • White and black feathers
  • Following each other


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Great tit

This colourful bird is an easy one to spot. It’s big, it’s bright and really well adapted to living around humans. The yellow underside is their signature look with a black stripe right down their middle. The wings and back can seem grey or dull in comparison, but in fact if you catch them in the light, you’ll see beautiful greens and blues in their feathers.

Key things to look out for:

  • Black head with white cheeks
  • A flash of yellow stomach
  • Black stripe from round their neck down their chest




Spotting the nuthatch may be difficult if it wasn’t for the black stripe across its eyes. The rest of its body is a pale grey and chestnut, making the black Zorro-like mask clearly stand out.

Key things to look out for:

  • Pointy beak
  • Pale body
  • Clear black stripe across their eyes and down their neck



These are one of our most common garden birds. If you’ve got a birdbath you’re likely to see blackbirds enjoying splashing around in it. You can’t miss them as they’re bigger than some of your other garden birds, like robins and wrens. The males live up to their name, with jet black feathers, but the females are actually brown and speckled when they’re young.

Key things to look out for:

  • Black or brown feathers
  • Bright yellow beak
  • Orange ring around their eyes




This little, round bird is a regular visitor to the average garden. It has brown speckled feathers and a paler underside, but you’ll usually hear it before you see it. For such a small bird, the wren’s song is a loud one! It’s already quite plump, but when it’s cold, it can puff out its feathers making it even more round.

Key things to look out for:

  • Round body
  • Little tufty upright tail
  • Noisy song!




Swallows can usually be seen swooping up and down in flight close to the ground. Here at the safari they’re happy swooping in and out of the giraffe house, or skimming across the Mizzy lake. Their wings and back can appear black at first but they’re really a deep, glossy blue. This contrasts with their white underside, so when you see them flying, you may see flashes of white, then blue as they twist and turn. If you look closely enough you can also see their dark red faces.

Key things to look out for:

  • Low, swooping flight
  • White belly
  • Dark on top
  • Long forked tail


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The goldfinch lives up to its name with a dark gold body and bright yellow patches on its wings. If you spot flashes of black and gold in your garden, it could well be a goldfinch (or a pile of treasure)! If you’re close and still enough, you’ll also see that they have little red faces and sharp beaks that are great at getting into the smallest of nooks and crannies, especially in thistle plants!

Key things to look out for:

  • Yellow patches on wings
  • Bright red face
  • Black tails with white patches
  • Long sharp pointed beaks


So now, next time you see a bird in your garden, your local park, or even while you’re wandering around our foot safari, you’ll be able to pinpoint exactly what type of bird it is!

Many of these birds were seen on our wild trail, in our Equatorial Trail with the tapir and over the Mizzy lake, so if you’re looking for the best place for bird spotting, our foot safari is the place to go. Plus you can get involved with the safari at our upcoming event – BIOBLITZ 2017! This is your chance to ask your own questions on native birds, mammals, amphibians and invertebrates and get involved with all the fun activities we have lined up. Find out more here!

Jenny Middleton

Article by: Jenny Middleton

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