Birds to look out for!

  • Bird Life At West Town Farm

    Our approach to farming in managing the land organically, maintaining hedgrows, re-planting orchards, encouraging species rich grassland etc. provides the variety of habitat and food sources necessary to host the wide variety of birds in the list below.

    If you're ever out at the farm and you spot an interesting bird or take a good picture please do let us know, we'd love to be able to add it to the list!

    If you'd like to know a bit more about any of the birds below please visit the  RSPB website as they're the experts and have given us permission to use this information.

  • Blackbird - The males live up to their name but, confusingly, females are brown often with spots and streaks on their breasts. The bright orange-yellow beak and eye-ring make adult male blackbirds one of the most striking garden birds. One of the commonest UK birds, its mellow song is also a favourite. You can find them just about anyweher on the farm at any time of year. They like to eat insects worms and berries.

     

  • Blue tit - A colourful mix of blue, yellow, white and green makes the blue tit one of our most attractive and most recognisable native birds. In winter, family flocks join up with other tits as they search for food. A garden with four or five blue tits at a feeder at any one time may be feeding 20 or more. Gaggles of blue tits can often be found in the hedge right next to the farm gate as they flock to the bird feeder hanging outside the forge.

  • Bullfinch - The male is unmistakable with his bright pinkish-red breast and cheeks, grey back, black cap and tail, and bright white rump. The flash of the rump in flight and the sad call note are usually the first signs of bullfinches being present. They feed voraciously on the buds of various trees in spring and were once a 'pest' of fruit crops so look out for them in the Orchards! 

  • Buzzard - Now the commonest and most widespread UK bird of prey. It is quite large with broad, rounded wings, and a short neck and tail. When gliding and soaring it will often hold its wings in a shallow 'V' and the tail is fanned. Birds are variable in colour from all dark brown to much paler variations, all have dark wingtips and a finely barred tail. Their plaintive mewing call could be mistaken for a cat.

    A family of Buzzards live in Chillies Copse but you can see them all over the farm as the soar above the fields searching for small mammals and other tasty meals. The farm staff really enjoy watching the young Buzzards learning to fly, it's a very noisy process with lots of verbal encouragement between siblings! 

  • Carrion crow - The all-black carrion crow is one of the cleverest, most adaptable of our birds. It is often quite fearless, although it can be wary of man. They are fairly solitary, usually found alone or in pairs. The closely related hooded crow has recently been split as a separate species.

  • Chaffinch - The chaffinch is the UK's second commonest breeding bird, and is arguably the most colourful of the UK's finches. Its patterned plumage helps it to blend in when feeding on the ground and it becomes most obvious when it flies, revealing a flash of white on the wings and white outer tail feathers. It does not feed openly on bird feeders - it prefers to hop about under the bird table or under the hedge. You'll usually hear chaffinches before you see them, with their loud song and varied calls.

  • Coal tit - Not as colourful as some of its relatives, the coal tit has a distinctive grey back, black cap, and white patch at the back of its neck. Its smaller, more slender bill than blue or great tits means it can feed more successfully in conifers. In winter they join with other tits to form flocks which roam through woodlands and gardens in search of food.

  • Collared Dove - Collared doves are a pale, pinky-brown grey colour, with a distinctive black neck collar (as the name suggests). They have deep red eyes and reddish feet. Their monotonous cooing will be a familiar sound to many of you. Although you'll often see them on their own or in pairs, flocks may form where there is a lot of food (seeds and grain) available.

  • Dunnock - A small brown and grey bird. Quiet and unobtrusive, it is often seen on its own, creeping along the edge of a flower bed or near to a bush, moving with a rather nervous, shuffling gait, often flicking its wings as it goes. When two rival males come together they become animated with lots of wing-flicking and loud calling. It likes to eat insects, spiders, worms and seeds.

  • Fieldfares - Fieldfares are large, colourful thrushes, much like a mistle thrush in general size, shape and behaviour. They stand very upright and move forward with purposeful hops. They are very social birds, spending the winter in flocks of anything from a dozen or two to several hundred strong. These straggling, chuckling flocks that roam the UK's countryside are a delightful and attractive part of the winter scene.

    They begin to arrive from October and numbers build up as the winter progresses. Birds start to return in March and some may stay into May.Best looked for in the countryside, along hedges and in fields. Hawthorn hedges with berries are a favourite feeding area. In late winter grass fields, playing fields and arable fields with nearby trees and hedges are a favourite place. They've been spotted in The Paddock and Orchards at West Town Farm in the past.

  • Goldfinch - A highly coloured finch with a bright red face and yellow wing patch. Sociable, often breeding in loose colonies, they have a delightful liquid twittering song and call. Their long fine beaks allow them to extract otherwise inaccessible seeds from thistles and teasels. Increasingly they are visiting birdtables and feeders. In winter many UK goldfinches migrate as far south as Spain.

    They're fairly common on the farm but, as they particularly like rough ground, with scattered bushes, trees, thistles and other seeding plants you might look out for them up at the Quarry.

  • Great tit - The largest UK tit - green and yellow with a striking glossy black head with white cheeks and a distinctive two-syllable song. It is a woodland bird which has readily adapted to man-made habitats to become a familiar garden visitor. In winter it joins with blue tits and others to form roaming flocks which scour gardens and countryside for food.

  • Great spotted woodpecker - About blackbird-sized and striking black-and-white. It has a very distinctive bouncing flight and spends most of its time clinging to tree trunks and branches, often trying to hide on the side away from the observer. Its presence is often announced by its loud call or by its distinctive spring 'drumming' display. The male has a distinctive red patch on the back of the head and young birds have a red crown.

  • Greenfinch - Its twittering and wheezing song, and flash of yellow and green as it flies, make this finch a truly colourful character. Although quite sociable, they may squabble among themselves or with other birds at a food source. A common countryside bird found in woods and hedges, but mostly found close to man on farmland and in parks, town and village gardens and orchards.

    Greenfinch populations declined during the late 1970s and early 1980s, but increased dramatically during the 1990s. A recent decline in numbers has been linked to an outbreak of trichomonosis, a parasite-induced disease which prevents the birds from feeding properly.

  • Green woodpecker - The green woodpecker is the largest of the three woodpeckers that breed in Britain. It has a heavy-looking body, short tail and a strong, long bill. It is green on its upperparts with a paler belly, bright yellow rump and red on the top of its head. The black 'moustache' has a red centre in males. They have an undulating flight and a loud, laughing call and has been spotted on the telegraph poles around the farm.

  • Grey heron - Grey herons are unmistakeable: tall, with long legs, a long beak and grey, black and white feathering. They can stand with their neck stretched out, looking for food, or hunched down with their neck bent over their chest.

    They eat lots of fish, but also small birds such as ducklings, small mammals like voles, and amphibians and conseuently can generally be found around any kind of water. At the farm that means look fr them by the stream or the pond in the Community Garden. However after harvesting, grey herons can sometimes be seen in fields, looking for rodents.

  • Grey partridge - A medium-sized, plump gamebird with a distinctive orange face. Flies with whirring wings and occasional glides, showing a chestnut tail. It is strictly a ground bird, never likely to be found in pear trees! Groups of 6-15 (known as coveys) are most usually seen outside the breeding season. Once very common and widespread, it has undergone serious declines throughout most of its range and is a Red List species.

    You're most likely to find them in the fields, particularly the specially planted seed field next to The Quarry, as they live off seeds, leaves and insects.

  • Hawfinch- David, who comes to the farm to bird watch, took this picture. He says, "Note the very large hefty bill capable of cracking open cherry stones with a force of about 40 lbs per sq. inch. Now a rare breeding bird in the UK in part due to destruction of orchards where they used to breed. They are nervous birds and are difficult to approach.  We think the ones we see here are from Europe driven by a lack of food. They feed on Field Maple seeds and also Hornbeam."

  • House martin - The house martin is a small bird with glossy blue-black upper parts and pure white under parts. It has a distinctive white rump with a forked tail and, on close inspection, white feathers covering its legs and toes. It spends much of its time on the wing collecting insect prey. The bird's mud nest is usually sites below the eaves of buildings. They are summer migrants and spend their winters in Africa. Although still numerous and widespread, recent moderate declines earn them a place on the Amber List.

  • House sparrow - Noisy and gregarious, these cheerful exploiters of man's rubbish and wastefulness, have managed to colonise most of the world. The ultimate avian opportunist perhaps. Monitoring suggests a severe decline in the UK house sparrow population, recently estimated as dropping by 71 per cent between 1977 and 2008 with substantial declines in both rural and urban populations. Whilst the decline in England continues, Breeding Bird Survey data indicate recent population increases in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Jay - Although they are the most colourful members of the crow family, jays are actually quite difficult to see. They are shy woodland birds, rarely moving far from cover. The screaming call usually lets you know a jay is about and it is usually given when a bird is on the move, so watch for a bird flying between the trees with its distinctive flash of white on the rump.

    Jays are famous for their acorn feeding habits and in the autumn you may see them burying acorns for retrieving later in the winter. Chillies Copse is a good place to start looking for them, because there are some oaks there, but you might also try along the lane next to Wilderness Three and the Railway Cutting as it runs along the bottom of Three Corner field. 

  • Kingfisher - Kingfishers are small unmistakable bright blue and orange birds of slow moving or still water. They fly rapidly, low over water, and hunt fish from riverside perches, occasionally hovering above the water's surface. So, look for them along the banks of the stream where they may be hunting for any small fish or aquatic insects.

    They are a vulnerable to hard winters and habitat degradation through pollution or unsympathetic management of watercourses, which is why good farm management is important. 

  • Lesser spotted woodpecker - The lesser spotted woodpecker is the smallest and least common of the three woodpeckers that are resident in Britain. The male is distinguished from the female by his bright red crown. It tends to nest and feed higher up and is quieter in its tapping. Usually located by its call, and its drumming. When feeding it creeps along branches and flutters from branch to branch, flying with an undulating flight in the open.

    They're been seen in The Old Orchard where they were probably searching for larvae, spiders and wood-boring insects, which is what they subsist on.

  • Linnet - A small, slim finch, widely distributed, and once very popular as a cage bird because of its melodious song. Males are attractively marked with crimson foreheads and breasts, females much browner. It has an undulating flight, usually twittering as it flies and may be seen in large flocks during the winter.

    Linnet numbers have dropped substantially over the past few decades, with the UK population estimated to have declined by 57 per cent between 1970 and 2008. because of this Linnets are a Red Status listed bird but Christoph, one of the OrganicARTS volunteers, says there are some living in the brambles at the bottom  of  West Town Orchard. 

  • Little egret - The little egret is a small white heron with attractive white plumes on crest, back and chest, black legs and bill and yellow feet. It first appeared in the UK in significant numbers in 1989 and first bred in Dorset in 1996. Its colonization followed naturally from a range expansion intro western and northern France in previous decades. It is now at home on numerous south coast sites, such as the esturaries of Devon & Cornwall, both as a breeding species and as a winter visitor. It is included on the Amber List as rare breeding species.

     
  • Long-tailed tit - The long-tailed tit is easily recognisable with its distinctive colouring, a tail that is bigger than its body, and undulating flight. Gregarious and noisy residents, long-tailed tits are most usually noticed in small, excitable flocks of about 20 birds. Like most tits, they rove the woods and hedgerows, but are also seen on heaths and commons with suitable bushes.

  • Magpie - With its noisy chattering, black-and-white plumage and long tail, there is nothing else quite like the magpie in the UK. When seen close-up its black plumage takes on an altogether more colourful hue with a purplish-blue iridescent sheen to the wing feathers, and a green gloss to the tail. Magpies seem to be jacks of all trades - scavengers, predators and pest-destroyers, their challenging, almost arrogant attitude has won them few friends. Non-breeding birds will gather together in flocks and the farm does have a couple of these. Mostly they gather in the Community Garden where they have been known to steal eggs from the chickens.

  • Mallard - The mallard is a large and heavy looking duck. It has a long body and a long and broad bill. The male has a dark green head, a yellow bill, is mainly purple-brown on the breast and grey on the body. The female is mainly brown with an orange bill. It breeds in all parts of the UK in summer and winter, wherever there are suitable wetland habitats, on the farm that would be the stream and the pond in the Community Garden. Mallards in the UK may be resident breeders or migrants - many of the birds that breed in Iceland and northern Europe spend the winter here.

  • Mistle thrush - This is a pale, black-spotted thrush - large, aggressive and powerful. It stands boldly upright and bounds across the ground while in flight, it has long wings and its tail has whitish edges. It is most likely to be noticed perched high at the top of a tree, singing its fluty song or giving its rattling call in flight.

  • Moorhen - Moorhens are blackish with a red and yellow beak and long, green legs. Seen closer-up, they have a dark brown back and wings and a more bluish-black belly, with white stripes on the flanks. You can find them around any pond, lake, stream or river, or even ditches on farmland!

  • Nuthatch - The nuthatch is a plump bird about the size of a great tit that resembles a small woodpecker. It is blue-grey above and whitish below, with chestnut on its sides and under its tail. It has a black stripe on its head, a long black pointed bill, and short legs. It breeds in central and southern England and in Wales, and is resident, with birds seldom travelling far from the woods where they hatch so keep an eye out for it in Chillies Copse. 

  • Pheasant - A large, long-tailed gamebird. Males have rich chestnut, golden-brown and black markings on body and tail, with a dark green head and red face wattling. Females are mottled with paler brown and black. They were introduced to the UK long ago and more recent introductions have brought in a variety of races and breeds for sport shooting.

    There are lots of Pheasants all over the farm as they wander in from the Perridge Estate next door, where they're raised for shooting. You are most likely to see them around the pig pens though because they like to eat leftover crumbs of pig food. You might also find a couple hanging in the staff kitchen. 

  • Pied wagtail - A delightful small, long-tailed and rather sprightly black and white bird. When not standing and frantically wagging its tail up and down it can be seen dashing about, particularly in the farmyard and farm house gardens. It frequently calls when in its undulating flight and often gathers at dusk to form large roosts.

  • Redwing - The redwing is most commonly encountered as a winter bird and is the UK's smallest true thrush. Its creamy strip above the eye and orange-red flank patches make it distinctive. They roam across the UK's countryside, feeding in fields and hedgerows, rarely visiting gardens, except in the coldest weather when snow covers the fields. They'll often join flocks of fieldfares. Only a few pairs nest in the UK.

  • Robin - The UK's favourite bird - with its bright red breast it is familar throughout the year and especially at Christmas! Males and females look identical, and young birds have no red breast and are spotted with golden brown. Robins sing nearly all year round and despite their cute appearance, they are aggressively territorial and are quick to drive away intruders. They will sing at night next to street lights.

    There are a few Robins around the farm but one in particular is quite tame and you're most likley to spot him on the cake stand at any farm event.

  • Song thrush - A familiar and popular garden songbird whose numbers are declining seriously, especially on farmland making it a Red List species. Smaller and browner than a mistle thrush with smaller spotting. Its habit of repeating song phrases distinguish it from singing blackbirds. It likes to eat snails which it breaks into by smashing them against a stone with a flick of the head.

  • Sparrowhawks - Sparrowhawks are small birds of prey. They're adapted for hunting birds in confined spaces like dense woodland. Adult male sparrowhawks have bluish-grey back and wings and orangey-brown bars on their chest and belly. Females and young birds have brown back and wings, and brown bars underneath. Sparrowhawks have bright yellow or orangey eyes, long, yellow legs and long talons. Females are larger than males, as with most birds of prey.

    Sparrowhawks breed in the woodland and eat smaller birds, you could see them on the farm at any time of year but you might start by looking out for them in Chillies Copse, Easterbrooks and The Paddock, particularly in spring time when the males starting displaying their "rollercoaster" flight to impress females.

  • Starling - Smaller than blackbirds, with a short tail, pointed head, triangular wings, starlings look black at a distance but when seen closer they are very glossy with a sheen of purples and greens. Their flight is fast and direct and they walk and run confidently on the ground. Noisy and gregarious, starlings spend a lot of the year in flocks. Still one of the commonest of garden birds, its decline elsewhere makes it a Red List species.

  • Swallow - Swallows are small birds with dark, glossy-blue backs, red throats, pale underparts and long tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing. They are widespread breeding birds in the Northern Hemisphere, migrating south in winter.

    Swallow numbers in the UK have fluctuated over the last 30 years with pronounced regional variation in trends. The species is amber listed due to population declines across Europe. The farm is lucky in that a group of swallows return here every year to breed in the rafters of farm buildings, they're particularly fond of the Old Grain Barn and last year Andy made a special hole for them in the roof of our brand new disabled toilet so they could continue to access one of their fvaourite nest building locations.

    Swallows are found in areas where there is a ready and accessible supply of small insects. They are particularly fond of open pasture and you can often see them swooping over the farm fields and farmyard at dusk, or watch them as they perch on the cables.

  • Swift - The swift is a medium-sized aerial bird, which is a superb flier. It evens sleeps on the wing! It is plain sooty brown, but in flight against the sky it appears black. It has long, scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail. It is a summer visitor, breeding across the UK, but most numerously in the south and east. It winters in Africa.

  • Treecreeper - The treecreeper is small, very active, bird that lives in trees. It has a long, slender, downcurved bill. It is speckly brown above and mainly white below. It breeds in the UK and is resident here. Birds leave their breeding territories in autumn but most range no further than 20 km. Its population is mainly stable.

    Best looked for on the trunks of trees in suitable woodland on the farm. In autumn and winter, it often joins flocks of tits and other small birds, so if you come across such a flock in a wood, it is worth listening out for a treecreeper among them.

  • Tree sparrow - Smaller than a house sparrow and more active, with its tail almost permanently cocked. It has a chestnut brown head and nape (rather than grey), and white cheeks and collar with a contrasting black cheek spot. They are shyer than house sparrows in the UK and are not associated with man, although in continental Europe they often nest in buildings just like house sparrows.

    The UK tree sparrow population has suffered a severe decline, estimated at 93 per cent between 1970 and 2008. However, recent Breeding Bird Survey data is encouraging, suggesting that numbers may have started to increase, albeit from a very low point. They're still almost absent from the South West though so it's great to know we're providing appropriate habitat for them. 

  • Woodpigeon - The UK's largest and commonest pigeon, it is largely grey with a white neck patch and white wing patches, clearly visible in flight. Although shy in the countryside it can be tame and approachable in towns and cities. Its cooing call is a familiar sound in woodlands as is the loud clatter of its wings when it flies away.

    They like to eat crops like cabbages, sprouts and peas, consequently you're likely to find them in the Community Garden despite attempts to persuade them to be elsewhere. 

  • Wren - The wren is a tiny brown bird, although it is heavier, less slim, than the even smaller goldcrest. It is dumpy, almost rounded, with a fine bill, quite long legs and toes, very short round wings and a short, narrow tail which is sometimes cocked up vertically. For such a small bird it has a remarkably loud voice. It is the commonest UK breeding bird, although it suffers declines during prolonged, severely cold winters.

  • Yellow wagtail - The yellow wagtail is a small, graceful, yellow and green bird, with a medium-length tail and slender black legs. It spends much time walking or running on the ground. As its name implies, it wags its tail from time to time.

    It is a summer visitor, migrating to winter in Africa. It breeds in a variety of habitats in the UK, including arable farmland, wet pastures and upland hay meadows, all of which can be found here at West Town. Serious declines in breeding numbers accross all of these habitats place the yellow wagtail on the red list of birds of conservation concern.