When you’re first thinking about getting kids involved in nature what’s in our gardens is often our first port of call. Once you and your kids get a bit more familiar with what’s been visiting your garden and identifying them visually, the next step is to start learning their songs so you can identify them while out walking or just playing outside. I’ve made a collection here of some of the most common British garden bird calls that you can start off with.
Tips for recognising garden bird calls with kids
- Start slow – aim to choose one bird that you know you can find in your garden or nearby on a walk and listen to the noises it makes. Does it match with the sound samples on this page?
- Once you know one, start adding in some others.
- If you hear something different that you can’t figure out, try to record it using a smartphone (often you can download free recording apps) and research it when you get home.
- Go for specific bird call walks – if you’re all early risers a dawn chorus walk is quite spectacular!
A book like the one below might be worth getting for keen kids. It’s probably a sound book that will last way longer than the traditional toddler type books! It’s a nice way for kids to take ownership of learning about it themselves and training their ears. You can see the book on Amazon UK here.
British garden bird calls to help you identify them
The most commonly recognised garden bird is, of course, the robin and most of us can spot this visitor to our gardens and it’s a super easy one to teach our kids too with his distinctive red breast.
The sound of the robin’s call was once described to me as sounding like a squeaky wheel – what do you think?
Blue Tit & Great Tit
Ok, we have two here together – the Blue Tit and the Great Tit. They both look fairly similar, the Great Tit having that very black head and front stripe on his chest whereas the blue tit has more blue on him. Their songs are very different though. The first you hear is the Blue Tit – tweet, tweet, tweet, twirrrrrllllll. The second is the great tit and is more rythmic – tu tweet, tu tweet, tu tweet
“Blue Tit and Great Tit.wav” by naturenotesuk of Freesound.org
If you ever see a wren and then hear it chirping away you might be really surprised at the big sound to come from such a small bird. It’s distinctive with the warble near the end and very loud!
“Wren 1.wav” by ERH of Freesound.org
Blackbirds are one of the easiest birds to listen to and identify, probably because they seem to me that they are some of the last ones to shut up at night time! If you’re ever out in the garden on an evening, try and listen for a blackbird song.
“Turdus merula 01.wav” by Tinga of Freesound.org
A greenfinch is a common garden bird, but I find because of its colour that it’s sometimes hard to spot as often as others. Once I learned its song I could hear it all the time and then could look a bit harder to spot it. It sounds a little like a wheeze!
“Greenfinch f.wav” by ERH of Freesound.org
Another really common bird in our gardens and hanging around in trees and on the tops of buildings are starlings. They can be really noisy and chattering!
“Starling bird twitter.mp3” by Ragu21 of Freesound.org
Greater spotted woodpecker
It’s not a bird that I have personally seen as much as some others, but if you hear a noise like this then perhaps you have a woodpecker nearby. This is the sound of the Greater spotted woodpecker.
“Great Spotted Woodpecker.wav” by naturenotesuk of Freesound.org
House sparrows are really common in gardens across the UK and they have a chattering sound like they are all having a conversation.
“sparrows” by ERH of Freesound.org
A sound of summer and while you’ll not find them in your garden, since they spend their lives in the air, swifts are often found nesting in roofs of houses up and down the country. They have a screech sound as they fly around the air.
“swifts.wav” by inchadney of Freesound.org
All sound clips used with permission and under Creative Commons licence.