Top 10 birds to photograph this winter

A guide to the top ten birds to see and photograph over the winter months.

Published: December 11th, 2012 at 4:55 pm


Snow Bunting

Though quite a rare breed for most of the year, they are joined by their relatives from the continent during the winter, making for a total wintering population of roughly 10-15,000 birds. It can be discovered in coastal sites in Scotland and eastern England.

Snow bunting ©Shutterstock

Blue Tit

Known for opening milk bottles, and one of the UK’s most recognizable birds, the Blue Tit is resplendent in blue, green, yellow, white, and black. Since in winter, families of the blue tits often flock together, those few you glimpse at the feeder in your garden may in fact be supplying many more over the cold period.


With its large crest and bright yellow-tipped tail feathers, the waxwing is noticeable amongst the starlings. They move inwards from the east after migrating from Scandinavia and Russia in autumn in search for berries, so keep a look out if you happen to have any holly or other berry or fruit-bearing bushes.


Though a common bird to most gardens, starlings have seen a huge drop in population numbers in the last ten years. Thus, it is a welcome sight to any visitors to the Welsh town of Aberystwyth, that every year they can be found flocking in huge numbers of up to 10, 000 underneath the local pier. Just before sundown is the best time to be present as they settle in to roost for the night, wheeling in great numbers overhead in front of the sunset.

Little Owl

Perhaps most notable for its severe expression thanks to its white ‘eyebrow’ feathers, this owl can be observed in daylight perched on places such as tree branches and fence posts. If you can direct its attention towards your camera, you might be treated to its amusingly ‘withering’ look.


Perhaps the most famous of all UK winter birds, the robin’s red breast is a familiar Christmas card vision amongst the snowy landscape of the UK. Relatively comfortable with humans, Robins will often approach gardeners turning the earth in search of earthworms, and have been known to be willing to feed from the hand (as demonstrated below).


Perhaps the mostly brightly plumaged finch, the chaffinch finds its place underneath feeders and hedges, and nesting in the crooks of trees. Unlike in the summer months, chaffinches do not sing in the winter, so you’ll have to keep an eye out for their bright plumage if you want to spot them amidst the frost of the morning.

Barn Owl

Though perhaps somewhat out of the neighbourhood for most cities and towns, the barn owl might be seen in the early hours of dusk and at night in more rural and countryside areas on the edges of woods. Soaring silently through the night, their high metabolism coupled with effective hunting skills means they are considered highly effective at catching pests such as mice. Because of this, farmers are likely to encourage the habitation of these birds near their properties as an alternative to other methods of eliminating vermin.


Though often unpopular for their large size and bully-some nature towards other birds (as well as their thieve-some habits), when viewed up-close the magpie’s coat is a variety of hues including greens and blues, resulting in a terrific photo against the back-drop of snow, should the opportunity arise.



With a green body and a yellow stripe across their heads, the Goldcrest shares the title with the Firecrest as the smallest birds in the UK. If you happen to have any pine or conifer trees they may become regulars to your garden.



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