CHRISTMAS OFFER Subscribe to Hampshire Life today CLICK HERE

Birds arriving in the UK this winter

PUBLISHED: 15:40 17 December 2013 | UPDATED: 10:05 03 January 2014

Redwing by Jon Hawkins

Redwing by Jon Hawkins


Before the cold really sets in, many birds arrive in the UK from the north and east to spend the winter. HWT’s Bob Chapman identifies some to watch out for this month


Similar in size and appearance to song thrushes, redwings are distinguished by the long creamy stripe above the eye. They like berries and can be seen in flocks in hedges in early autumn. Later, they look for worms and other invertebrates in open grassy fields or in the leaf litter in woodlands. If it gets really cold, they come into gardens to feed on fallen apples.


These plain, grey warblers with a contrasting cap – black in the male and brown in the female – are an increasingly familiar sight in our gardens in winter. Almost all those that spend the winter here do so in suburban gardens where berry-bearing bushes and bird feeders provide abundant food. In cold weather, blackcaps will eat apples and are reputedly fond of sponge cake.


Whatever the season, you can nearly always see a blackbird. Many birds stay here all year, but in autumn there is an influx from the east. Visiting birds often join flocks of redwings and fieldfares to feed on hawthorn and holly berries or eat fallen apples. They might also appear in our gardens, which leads to vigorous disputes with the locals.


The increase in nyger seed feeders means that lots of us now see these pretty little finches in our gardens in winter. The males can be bright yellow with darker streaking and a black cap. Often very tame, it is sometimes possible almost to walk right up to them on a feeder. Siskins bring a touch of summery-yellow to brighten up even the dullest winter day.

Lesser redpoll

These small finches have become much more familiar to many of us in the last 10 years. They feed on tiny seeds, such as those of birch trees. Recently lesser redpolls have discovered nyger seed feeders and are now quite common in gardens, when you can appreciate their scarlet forehead, or ‘poll’, and the pink flush on a male’s breast.

Pied wagtail

Almost every car park, playground or playing field has a few of these distinctive birds walking around looking for food. Even though there may be several in the same area, pied wagtails like to have their own patch and will drive off rivals. At dusk, they change character and pack together in hundreds to roost, often in town centres on windowsills or in trees.


These exotic-looking, starling-sized birds are one of the stars among our winter visitors. This status is enhanced by their irregular occurrence, as years of scarcity are punctuated with invasions by large flocks. Waxwings specialise in eating berries, but arrive long after the thrushes have cleared the hawthorn and holly berries. They will eat the less favoured fruit of whitebeams and cotoneasters, and so are almost always seen in gardens or in ornamental plantings around industrial estates and supermarkets.


Often in mixed flocks with their smaller cousin the chaffinch, these finches turn up in varying numbers each winter. They can be seen in late autumn feeding under beech trees on fallen seeds and come into gardens when food gets scarcer. Sometimes in March, large flocks gather at feeding stations, as they stock up for their return migration. By this time, the males look magnificent with black heads and orange breasts.

Where our winter visitors come from

Each autumn, millions of birds are on the move and as our summer visitors leave for Africa, many more birds arrive from the north and east to spend the winter here. Thrushes like redwings and blackbirds do not like snow covered ground and arrive from Scandinavia along with flocks of starlings and bramblings. Redpolls and siskins can come from the same areas, but many move down from Scotland where they breed in conifer plantations. Pied wagtails from Scotland and the higher ground of northern England head south and to lower ground for more hospitable winter weather. In years when the fruit crop fails, there can be invasions of waxwings from as far east as the Siberian taiga. Blackcaps tend to visit us from the south-east – many from Germany and surrounding countries.

Keep an eye on the Trust’s website and Twitter @HantsIWWildlife for updates throughout the winter.

More from Out & About

Blow away the Christmas cobwebs on a walk with fine views and a striking memorial

Read more
Yesterday, 14:07

Treat yourself to lunch and tea with a visit to one of these fantastic Hampshire tea rooms.

Read more
Yesterday, 14:06

Is there anything more refreshing than a stroll on a crisp winter’s day? We don’t think so! Here are a few of our favourite rambles across the county to enjoy this season

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

We round up some of the best events and things to do across Hampshire this month

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

With 100 years since the last guns were fired during World War One, we remember the sacrifices Hampshire made

Read more
Tuesday, December 4, 2018

With the New Forest, South Downs and a picturesque coastline, Hampshire is an amazing place for a walk. We round up a few of our favourites

Read more
Friday, November 30, 2018

There is so much to see and do in Hampshire over the festive season, from carol services to markets and of course amazing food and drink and our day-by-day guide brings you the pick of the best

Read more
Tuesday, November 27, 2018

If you’re planning to add a new extension, remodel the internal layout or create a brilliant new kitchen overlooking a landscaped garden, a visit to the South East Homebuilding & Renovating Show (19-20 January 2019) at Farnborough International Exhibition and Conference Centre is a must

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

Huge Christmas markets, frosty countryside and cosy pubs; winter in Hampshire is second to none…

Read more
Monday, November 26, 2018

When it comes to celebrating the festive season, Winchester is alive with the sound of music. From Cathedral choirs to community singers and from family musicals to classical concerts, there’s something for everyone

Read more
Friday, November 23, 2018

Get in the festive spirit with our selection of the Hampshire's top dining experiences this Christmas…

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

This thriving community in North Hampshire is a desirable location for residents and visitors alike

Read more
Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Running a successful regional theatre means thinking beyond the bricks and mortar to reach out to the community. We ask four of Hampshire’s leading impresarios, how do they ensure that the show goes on?

Read more
Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Savour spectacular views of the Needles and Alum Bay and discover history tales on this invigorating walk on the Isle of Wight

Read more
A+ South & South West

Newsletter Sign Up

Sign up to the following newsletters:

Sign up to receive our regular email newsletter

Our Privacy Policy

Topics of Interest

Food and Drink Directory

Subscribe or buy a mag today

subscription ad

Local Business Directory

Property Search