Ever since starting the live cameras in my backyard in Ohio, I have always felt comfortable helping viewers identify birds they have never seen before. From Northern Cardinals to Blue Jays to Downy Woodpeckers, I have a lot of confidence in helping with any identification question.

 

But then we added a live bird feeder camera from Germany to the site.

 

And then another one from the United Kingdom.

 

Did I mention the incredible feeding station in the Czech Republic?

 

As you can imagine, the following question kept getting asked:

 

What type of bird is that?

 

But I had no idea how to answer since I was clueless about the common birds that visit feeders in Europe. In fact, there was a good chance that I was the one asking the question!

 

So I spent some time watching the live streams from Europe, asking questions, and making notes. I even ordered TWO new field guides to help me figure out what I was seeing!

field guide for common birds of europe and britain

  • A. Collins Bird Guide: View Cost - Amazon
    • This field guide has incredible detail and lists hundreds of species and over 3,500 paintings. This book probably includes too much information for the casual birder and viewer.

 

 

I created an ID guide to the common birds that live in Europe!

 

There are 20 birds you will learn about below. Each species has been observed on one of the live European cameras. If you scroll to the bottom, you will even see a few mammals, along with some other unique visitors. 🙂

 


Common Backyard European Birds:

 

*If you see a species that is not on this list, please comment at the bottom, and it will get added!*

 


1. Blue Tit

european feeder birds

The Blue Tit can be quite tame and is a frequent and welcome visitor to bird feeders across Europe. They are fun to watch due to their acrobatic skills, as they readily hang upside down from feeders.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

These colorful birds are mostly yellow, blue, and greenish. They have a bright blue cap on their heads, along with a distinctive black and white face pattern and eyeline. Look for a dark, thin central streak on the yellow underside. Wings are mostly bluish.

Males and females look the same, other than females have a slightly less blue cap.

Blue Tits eat a wide variety of nuts and seeds from bird feeders.

Similar Species: Great Tit, Coal Tit

 


2. Great Tit

common backyard birds in britian and germany

Great Tits are described as being bold and sometimes even aggressive. They are one of the most common birds you will see visiting bird feeders and gardens. At first, I would get mixed up between a Great Tit and Blue Tit, but once you know what to look for, it’s easy to tell them apart.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

They have a broad black stripe running down their yellow breast. Their head has a shiny black cap with white cheeks. Great Tits don’t have a black eye-line like Blue Tits, and they are noticeably larger too. You can also look for the white wing-bar on their blue-grey wings.

Males and females look the same.

Similar Species: Blue Tit, Coal Tit

 


3. Robin (European)

best bird in UK and Great Britian, England

The Robin is one of Europe’s most charming and popular birds. They have become tame and are a welcome sight to any backyard. Robins are even known to follow gardeners around!

 

Identifying Characteristics:

Robins are small and brownish with a rusty-red bib that covers their entire breast and face. They have thin and rather long legs and big black eyes.

Males and females look similar.

I find it interesting that European Robins and American Robins are not related. American Robins are thrushes, while the Robins in Europe are small passerines that are old world flycatchers. Their only similarity seems to be the rusty red color on their breasts.

 


4. Coal Tit

common garden birds

The Coal Tit is a small bird often seen in gardens and bird feeders. For those of us that live in North America, it looks and acts similar to a Black-capped Chickadee.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

It’s described as a small, colorless cousin of the Great Tit. Look for the black head, large white cheek patches, and narrow white wing bar. Underparts are dusky greyish-buff. It often shows a tiny black crest on top of their heads.

The feature that gives them away is a white patch on their nape (back of the neck). This coloring easily distinguishes Coal Tits from Marsh and Willow Tit.

Males and females look the same.

Similar species: Great Tit, Marsh Tit, Willow Tit

 


5. Marsh & Willow Tit

birds of britain and Europe

 

I decided to group these two birds. That’s because a Marsh Tit and Willow Tit are virtually identical to each other!

 

Identifying Characteristics:

These birds are small, with a rather big head proportionate to their bodies. Their plumage is a mix of grey-brown and off-white, and they have a black cap and black bib.

Here are a few minor differences to try and tell them apart: Marsh Tits are slightly slimmer and neater in their appearance. Marsh Tits are fearless and typically dominant over Willow Tits when they overlap. Willow Tits have a more bigger-headed, bull-necked appearance.

Males and females look the same.

 

The best way to tell these two birds apart is by their sounds.

 

Marsh Tit:

 

Willow Tit: Call is 1-2 short notes followed by 2-4 lower, hoarse, drawn-out notes.

 

Both of these recordings were downloaded from Xeno-canto, which is dedicated to sharing bird sounds from all over the world!

 


6. Nuthatch (Eurasian)

backyard feeder birds in Europe, Germany

The Eurasian Nuthatch is relatively easy to identify, and no other bird in Europe looks similar. My favorite part about nuthatches is how they frequently climb down trees headfirst! They are common visitors to bird feeders and commonly chase off other birds while scattering seeds in all directions.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

Identified by their blue-grey and buff plumage. Like many nuthatches, they appear a bit top-heavy but are excellent climbs. What gives them away to me is their long, dagger-like grey bill and black eye-stripe.

Nuthatches are quick and active and make lots of sudden movements.

Males and females look the same.

 


7. Goldfinch (European)

 

European Goldfinches are agile and acrobatic feeders and often visit feeders in large flocks looking for sunflower and nyjer (thistle) seed.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

Goldfinches are rather easy to identify because of their unique red face, which surrounds their eyes and beak. The rest of their head is white and black. If you look at the wings, you will see that they are all black with a broad yellow wing bar. Their bodies are mostly colored in a chestnut color.

Males and females look the same.

Similar Species: Greenfinch

 


8. Greenfinch (European)

Have you ever seen a “frowning” bird? Well, then you have never met a Greenfinch. Take a look at their bill! Greenfinches love to visit backyards that offer sunflowers, and they have no issue cracking through the hard shell with their powerful beaks.

Identifying Characteristics:

Greenfinches have a rather stout body, head, and bill and are about the size of a House Sparrow.

Males are relatively easy to identify by their green plumage and bright yellow stripe on their wings.

Females and juveniles are a bit more tricky to identify because they are duller than the male, but they will still feature yellow feathers on their folded wings.

 


9. Magpie

Magpies are extremely intelligent and members of the Corvidae family, which also includes crows and jays. I think Magpies are beautiful with their mix of black, white, and blue coloring, but they can be aggressive around other birds and at feeders.

 

The Magpie you see in Europe is also referred to as the Common or Eurasian Magpie, and its scientific name is Pica pica. In North American, the scientific name is Pica hudsonia and is referred to as the American or Black-billed Magpie. Both of these species look identical.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

It’s hard to mistake any bird for a Magpie. They are rather large birds with a long, tapered tail. When seen in the sun, they appear an iridescent sheen of blue, purple, and green.

 

Magpies have all-black heads and shoulders, with a white patch on their wings and white bellies. Their wings have a pretty blue gloss, which changes slightly with sunlight.

 


10. Collared Dove

common birds

Collared Doves are prevalent both on farms and in the suburbs. They are reasonably easy to identify because no other dove or pigeon looks similar in Europe. These doves look like Mourning Doves that are native to North America.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

Collared Doves have a pale, grey-brown body, pinkish head, and breast, and is about the size of a pigeon. True to its name, the most identifiable feature is a black collar that wraps halfway around the back of their necks.

Males and females look similar.

 


11. House Sparrow

common european birds

It’s sort of weird to watch House Sparrows in their native habitat in Europe, where they have declined. I am so used to seeing them on my feeders where they can be so numerous, especially in winter. No matter where you travel in the world, you should be able to observe House Sparrows in residential areas.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

Males are relatively easy to identify. Look for their bold black bib and a distinctive grey cap. The plumage on their back and wings is a mixture of red, brown, and black streaks, while their undersides are grey.

Females are not as boldly marked as males. They don’t have the black mask around their faces like the males. Their face and body are much more plain but look for a plain tannish line just behind their eyes.

Similar species: Males look like Tree Sparrows, females look like female Chaffinches.

 


12. Tree Sparrow (Eurasian)

At first glance, the Tree Sparrows look identical to the male House Sparrow. But once you know what to look for, they are easy to tell apart!

 

Identifying Characteristics:

To determine if you are observing a House Sparrow or Tree Sparrow, you need to look at the top of the head. The top of the head and back of the neck on a Tree Sparrow is covered in a rich chestnut color. Male House Sparrows have a dark grey crown that extends from the top of it’s bill to it’s back.

Tree Sparrows also have kidney-shaped black ear patches and white cheeks. The chin, throat and the area between the bill and throat are black. The upperparts are light brown, streaked with black, and the brown wings have two distinct narrow white bars.

Interestingly, Tree Sparrows show no differences between males, females, and juveniles. They all look the same!


13. Eurasian Jay

In North America, Blue Jays are one of my favorite birds to see, so I was very excited to be able to watch these Eurasian Jays. Just like other members of the Corvidae family, they are noisy, smart, and loud.

Identifying Characteristics:

This jay species has a unique plumage and is hard to confuse with any other bird. Most of their body is covered in pinkish grey-brown plumage. They have a streaked head, white throat, and a thick black mustache running behind their mouths.

I love looking for the gorgeous barred blue feathers at the top of their wings.

Males and females are identical.

 


14. Common Blackbird

common birds ID guide

Interestingly, the Common Blackbird is not a flocking bird, like many other blackbird species that I am used to seeing, like starlings or grackles.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

The male is all black with a yellow bill and yellow eye-ring and is fairly easy to identify. The only confusion comes during their first winter when males will have a black beak.

Females can cause some trouble because they are easily confused with other thrush species. They are a sooty-brown color with a slightly lighter brown-whitish throat.

 


15. Common Wood Pigeon

The Wood Pigeon is often found in large flocks in both rural areas and the city. Their numbers have significantly increased, probably due to the fact they can live alongside humans.

Identifying Characteristics:

They are noticeably larger than city pigeons with a longer tail. Wood Pigeons are best identified by the large white on the sides of their neck, pink breast, and white wing bar.

Males and females are identical.

Similar Species: Rock Dove, city pigeons

 


16. Common Pheasant

The Common Pheasant in Europe is the same species (Phasianus colchicus) that lives in North America, which we call the Ring-necked Pheasant. But it’s not native to either the America’s or Europe, but was introduced from Asia a LONG time ago as a game bird.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

Male pheasants are easy to identify with a bold, bare red-sided head and a long, barred brown tail. Pheasants are large birds and are common around woodland edges.

Females are buff-brown with dark angular spots covering the entire body.

 


17. Chaffinch

The Chaffinch is a successful and abundant finch. It’s Britain’s second most common bird (after the Wren), and is commonly seen eating from the ground.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

Chaffinches are about the same size as a House Sparrow, but they are slimmer and have a longer tail.

Males have a double white wing-bar, blue-grey head and bill, and a brown back and breast.

Females have an olive head and back and a buffish grey-white breast and can be hard to distinguish between a female House Sparrow.

 


18. Hawfinch

amazing birds from europe

If you get the pleasure of observing a Hawfinch, it certainly makes you stop and stare. Their beautiful coloring and large, powerful beaks make these birds fascinating and stunning. Hawfinches have no problem cracking open any types of seed, including cherry kernels!

 

Identifying Characteristics:

Hawfinches are orange-brown with a black eyestripe and bib. Look for their massive bill, which is black in summer but paler in winter. The underparts are orangish, while the upper part of the body is dark brown.

The Hawfinch appears to look bulky and bull-headed. I think its tail seems too short for their stocky body.

Males and females look similar, except that females are slightly lighter.


19. Great Spotted Woodpecker

Look for these large woodpeckers during winter visiting bird tables and eating suet. They are acrobatic and can easily cling upside-down.

Identifying Characteristics:

The Great Spotted Woodpecker has a beautiful plumage of black and white on its head and back with bright white underparts. Look for the two white oval shoulder patches while the bird is not flying.

Males have a red patch on the back of their head, while females do not.

Similar Species: Middle Spotted Woodpecker

 


20. Middle Spotted Woodpecker

Consider yourself lucky if you get the chance to spot a Middle Spotted Woodpecker. They don’t visit bird feeders often and usually stay high in the trees, making them difficult to detect. Luckily, they are seen while watching the live camera from the Czech Republic.

 

Identifying Characteristics:

Middle Spotted Woodpeckers look very similar to Great Spotted Woodpeckers, as they both feature white oval wing patches and a mostly black back with white barring on their wings.

There are two easy ways to tell the difference between these two woodpecker species:

  • The Middle Spotted Woodpecker has a red patch on the top of their heads.
  • The Great Spotted Woodpecker has a black mustache on their fact that is absent on the Middle Spotted.

 


Mammals and Unique Birds

In this section, I want to highlight a few of the common mammals that have been observed on the live cameras from Europe. Also, beneath the mammals, I have displayed the birds that have appeared that are not commonly seen at bird feeding stations.


1. Hedgehog

hedgehog

 

Look for hedgehogs on the ground at our Germany camera. Thomas even has a small house that he is hoping they will start using. Hedgehogs are nocturnal, so you will need to watch at night to have a chance to see them.

 


2. Eurasian Red Squirrel

This cute squirrel is native to Europe, but its population has been declining due to an invasive species. Can you believe it’s the introduced Eastern Grey Squirrel from North America? Unfortunately, they are outcompeting the Eurasian Red Squirrel, where they overlap.

 


3. Mouse

Look for mice sneaking out to grab a bite to eat once the sun goes down.

 


4. Barn Owl

 

Leave a Reply