Birds, common British species

Birds

Kingfisher Kingfisher.
Only 14 to 19cm long, dives into water to catch small fish.
Kingfisher
Marsh Harrier in flight Marsh Harrier female in flight.
Specialist reedbed hunter, 115 to 140cm wingspan.
Marsh Harrier
Puffin Puffin, during the breeding season.
In winter they shed the brightly coloured outer layer of the bill,
leaving it smaller and dark.
Puffin
Jay Jay on a bird table.
This crow specialises in collecting acorns in autumn,
caching them for the winter.
Jay
Jay Mandarin drake.
This duck was imported from china,
after escaping from collections it now lives wild in the UK.
Jay

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A simple guide to birds.

This site is intended to give a quick introduction to British birds. I've included hints on identifiying some common species.

The birds are grouped in families, which are closely related.

Bird families
Ducks
Ducks
Finches
Finches
Waders
Waders

You can find out more about birds by following the links at the bottom of the page.

There are three sections describing each group of birds.

Bits
What to look for to tell different birds apart.
Types
Birds you might see.
There are pop up hints to tell them apart.
Feeding
Ways they find food.
Watch how birds behave, it's a clue to who's who.

Flight

Why fly

Flight gives birds great mobility...
  • to escape from ground predators
  • to travel quickly between nests, roosts and sources of food and water
  • to hunt flying animals
  • to migrate over large distances.

Types of flight

Clap & fling
The wings are brought together above the body and rapidly pulled apart, to suck air down.
This is used for a quick vertical takeoff by small and medium sized birds. As the bird lifts off clattering sounds can often be heard, dying away when the flight shifts to horizontal.
Undulation
Flapping quickly for short periods to gain height and speed, followed by folding the wings to reduce drag and dropping again.
This is typical of smaller birds.
Flap & glide
Similar to undulation, but the wings are spread when not flapping. This is often used by longer winged birds.
Flap & tuck
The wing is outstretched on the down stroke and tucked in on the upstroke. This pushes air down to create lift, the wing twists on the upstroke to create forward thrust.
Short winged birds tend to tuck the wing more.
Flapping
The wing is outstretched for lift, it twists slightly on each stroke, pushing air backwards for forward thrust.
Long winged birds tend to tuck the wing less.
Gliding
Not flapping, the bird uses forward airspeed over the wing to generate lift. With no forward propulsion, gliding will slow the bird unless it descends to maintain speed.
Soaring
Where winds or air temperature cause rising air, gliding birds may use this to gain height. This is an energy efficient way to fly and birds may be seen circling in rising air, gliding for long periods.
Hovering
Many small to medium birds may hover for short periods, this is usually very energy intensive and most birds can only hover for a short time.
Where winds are strong enough and rising, larger birds may hover by soaring into the wind.
Hummingbird
Holds it's body near vertical and twists the wing after each stroke to direct air downwards. This downward airflow supports the bird's weight and allows it to hover.
Diving
The wings may be swept back or partly folded in a dive. The bird gains speed by losing height and can reach the highest speed acheived by any animal.
Whiffling
Rolling onto the side or upside down is a quick way to lose height.
Waterfowl may wiffle to drop down steeply and land on water.
Jinking
Swerving rapidly and repeatedly is sometimes used to avoid predators.
Some birds also jink when displaying.