Winter Bird Watching in UK (Where To Go & What You'll See)

Winter Bird Watching in UK (Where To Go & What You’ll See)

Many people think bird watchers pack their equipment away and hibernate through the Winter months but that’s not true. In fact the Winter offers the bird watcher a spectacular display of migratory birds from as far afield as Northern Canada, Scandinavia and even the Arctic circle. Plus many resident birds like tits, starlings, robins and such are more visible during the Winter months as their numbers are boosted by migrants seeking food.

It is estimated that roughly 40% of the world’s bird population are migratory. Here in the UK we lose some species during Winter as they head off to warmer climes in Southern Europe and Africa, but we gain many more from the frozen North. 

Where Do You Need To Go To Spot Winter Birds?

The good news is that you don’t have to go anywhere to spot Winter birds. If you have a garden, the chances are you already have lots of birds visiting. There are a number of ways to encourage many more varieties to your garden without going to a great deal of expense. A few feeders hung in bushes or trees, a bird table and a bird bath make an appealing and enticing invitation to the birds all year round but especially during the cold Winter months.

Ways To Attract Birds To Your Winter Garden

Birds need fresh, clean water 365 days a year. Even when food is in abundance, birds need water for hydration and bathing to clean their feathers. A bird bath doesn’t need to be elaborate, just a shallow bowl placed in a safe, predator free space filled with 2 to 3 inches of water is all they need.

Be sure to change the water and clean the bowl regularly and remove any ice but never use salt or antifreeze as these are poisonous to birds.

To attract a wider variety of birds you’ll need to supply various types of foods. Seeds, nuts, fruit, mealworms and suet all help to provide wild birds with the energy they need to survive the long cold spells of Winter.

For future years, consider planting bird friendly plants, plants that provide seeds, berries and fruit to attract birds all year round.

What Birds Can Be Seen In Gardens During Winter?


In the UK there are a few resident birds that are with us all year, and some that are of the same species but join their British cousins when food supplies run short in their areas. Plus others that only visit us during the Winter and then fly North again in Springtime. Depending on where you live you can expect to see some of the following;

  • Fieldfare
  • Redwing
  • Waxwing
  • Brambling
  • Robin
  • Blue Tit
  • Long-Tailed Tit
  • Coal Tit
  • Nuthatch
  • Chaffinch
  • Bullfinch
  • Goldfinch
  • Dunnock
  • Goldcrest
  • Blackbird

Some of these are shy birds and you’ll be lucky to spot them at all. That doesn’t mean they’re not there, just that they’re elusive.

Best Winter Bird Watching Sites In The UK

If you are planning on going further afield to watch birds during this Winter, there are a few great places to visit. Many of these are RSPB sites or National Nature Reserves and you might need to check on opening hours and if there are any current restrictions in place. Below is a selection of some of the best sites to spot Winter birds in the UK, please note this list is not inclusive and there may be some great bird watching sites literally on your doorstep (check local guides).

Great British bird watching sites include;

At any of the above sites you can expect to see a number of Winter bird visitors, many in great numbers. Some of the wildfowl you can expect to see include;

  • Golden Eye
  • Goosander
  • Greylag Goose
  • Long-Tailed Duck
  • Mallard
  • Mandarin
  • Mute Swan
  • Pink-Footed Goose
  • Pintail
  • White-Fronted Goose
  • Velvet Scoter
  • Wigeon
  • Whooper Swan
  • Pochard
  • Ruddy Duck
  • Red-Breasted Merganser
  • Scaup
  • Shelduck
  • Shoveler
  • Smew
  • Taiga Bean Goose
  • Teal
  • Tundra Bean Goose
  • Tufted Duck
  • Barnacle Geese
  • Arctic Skua 
  • Bewick’s Swan
  • Brent Goose
  • Canada Goose
  • Common Scoter
  • Eider
  • Egyptian Goose
  • Gadwall
  • Garganey

Many of these Winter wildfowl visitors are rare, and some will only reach our most Northerly reserves. But some do venture South or get blown off course due to strong winds.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you go bird watching in the winter?

You can go bird watching in the Winter, you will see many birds that only visit the UK in Winter time.

Which birds come to UK for winter?

Apart from an increasing number of resident birds that join their British cousins when food is short in their native homelands, you can also expect to see fieldfares, waxwings, redwings, bramblings and a number of waterfowl including bewick’s swans, whooper swans and many more.

Do robins fly south for the winter?

Some robins fly South for the Winter, while others remain where they are and others arrive from more Northerly points.