11 Types Of Small Birds That Can Be Found In The UK

The United Kingdom is home to some very cute birds, some common and some not so common. In this article, you will meet 11 types of small birds found in the UK and learn to identify them. From the tiniest birds in Europe to the famous cream-pinching Blue Tits they are all little and amazing.

All the small British birds in this post are 15cm in length or less hence there may be some that you consider small that didn’t make the cut. You may find those birds in other posts here on the Birdwatch World blog. Look for links to other articles scattered throughout this one…

Check out my top 4 recommendations for UK bird field guides on Amazon at this link.

1. Tits

If you have a garden feeder you have most likely seen a Tit before as they are regular visitors to feeders.

Tits range in size from 11.5 cm to around 14cm (4.5-5.5 in.) in length. They are very social birds and often flock together in mixed groups.

6 species of Tit breed in the United Kingdom. The most recognizable of them is the Blue Tit:

a Blue Tit perched on a branch
Blue Tit – image by Uros Poteko from Canva

Blue Tits earned a bad reputation for themselves back in 1921 in Swathling, England when they began pilfering cream from the top of people’s milk bottles. In those days, milk was delivered to your doorstep in glass bottles.

The Tits had figured out how to remove the caps on the bottles to get at the cream that had floated to the top of the milk. This technique soon spread among Tits all across the UK.

Read more about the intelligence of Blue Tits and other birds in this article here on Birdwatch World.

The other Tits that breed in the UK are seen below:

5 types of small birds found in the UK - a Coal Tit, a Great Tit, a Crested Tit, a Marsh Tit, and a Willow Tit

There is also the Long-Tailed Tit which only breeds in England on rare occasions. They are around 14 cm (5.5 in.) in length with long tails.

a Long-tailed Tit hanging upside down from a bird feeder
Long-tailed Tit – image by Leopardinatree from Getty Images Signature

Long-tailed Tits are social birds that move in flocks of mostly around 20 birds. They are very noisy and excitable birds. Listen to their calls below:

Another Tit you might be lucky enough to see in the United Kingdom is the Eurasian Penduline Tit. Around 10-11 cm (3.9-4.3 in.) long, these little migrants will sometimes visit England during the winter months.

a Eurasian Penduline Tit clinging to a reed
Eurasian Penduline Tit – image by Andyworks from Getty Images Signature

2. Eurasian Wrens

Eurasian Wrens are cute little birds around 9-10 cm (3.5-3.9 in.) in length with brown feathers and stubby tails.

a Eurasian Wren perched on a branch
Eurasian Wren – image by Tania Araujo from Getty Images

These are the most commonly occurring birds that breed in the UK.

You can find them feeding on insects and spiders in woodland, farmland, moorland, and heathland. You might also spot them on islands though they are less abundant in Scotland and northern England.

Discover the best time for birdwatching in the UK here in this post from Birdwatch World.

3. Warblers

There are 53 different Warblers that can be found in the United Kingdom and they range in size from 10 to 15 cm (3.9-5.9 in.) in length.

a Willow Warbler perched on a thorny branch
Willow Warbler – image by HelenWalkerz65 from Getty Images

Warblers are classified into 5 different groups:

  • Leaf Warblers
  • Reed Warblers
  • Bush Warblers
  • Grasshopper Warblers
  • Old World Warblers (also called Sylviid Warblers)

Most of these birds are migrants but some do remain in the UK year-round. Some are only found on the Shetland Islands.

a Garden Warbler, a Eurasian Blackcap, a Blythe's Reed Warbler, a Cetti's Warbler, a Common Chiffchaff, and a Dartford Warbler
6 Common species of Warblers found in the UK

4. Finches

25 different species of Finch occur in the UK. Here I’m only going to deal with those that fit within a 15 cm length limit. Some of them go over it but mostly, these birds range from 10.5 to 20cm (4.1-7.9 in.) long.

a European Siskin standing on grass and moss
European Siskin – image by Thorsten Spoerlein from Getty Images

The European Siskin shown above is a regular visitor to backyard feeders in the UK. These birds are most numerous in Scotland and Wales.

Listen to the call of the European Siskin below:

Below you can see more types of Finches that occur across the United Kingdom:

a Common Rosefinch, a Eurasian Bullfiinch, a European Greenfinch, a Twite, a Eurasian Linnet, and a Common Redpoll
a Lesser Redpoll, a Hoary Redpoll, a Red Crossbill, a European Goldfinch, a Citril Finch, and a European Serin

Some Finches will feed while perched on or hanging from trees or bushes. Others are ground feeders that jump around picking up seeds.

Are bird watchers weird? Find out in this post from Birdwatch World.

5. Flycatchers and Chats

There are 21 species under 15 cm in this group, ranging from 12 cm (4.7 in.) to a maximum length of 16 cm (6.3 in.).

Included in this group are Robins, Flycatchers, Stonechats, Redstarts, Wheatears, and more.

a Common Redstart perched on a branch
Common Redstart – image by Neil Bowman from Getty Images

Some other small British birds from this group can be seen below:

a Spotted Flycatcher, a European Robin, a Bluethroat, a Red-breasted Flycatcher, a European Pied Flycatcher, and a Black Redstart
a Winchat, a European Stonechat, and a Northern Wheatear

The birds in the pictures that follow are those from this family not so commonly seen. Some of them such as the Siberian Stonechat has only been seen in scattered places along the coast of England, Scotland, and Ireland.

an Asian Brown Flycatcher, A Rufous-tailed Scrub-robin, a Siberian Rubythroat, a Red-flanked Bluetail, a Collard Flycatcher, and a Siberian Stonechat
an Amur Stonechat, a Desert Wheatear, a Western Black-eared Wheatear, an Eastern Black-eared Wheatear, and a Pied Wheatear

6. Nuthatch

There is only one solitary bird in the group of Nuthatches found in the UK – the Eurasian Nuthatch.

a Eurasian Nuthatch crouched on the ground
Eurasian Nuthatch – image by Ivinst from Getty Images

Eurasian Nuthatches are UK residents, rarely moving far away from the woods where they hatch. They breed in England, Wales, and Scotland.

Nuthatches are in fact the only UK bird that can climb down trees headfirst. Those powerful claws provide enough grip for them to do this with ease.

a Eurasian Nuthatch clinging to the trunk of a tree

Listen to the call of the Eurasian Nuthatch below:

7. Sparrows

There are 4 species of Sparrows that can be sighted in the United Kingdom, one of which is a bird that has managed to occupy most of the planet.

a House Sparrow perched on a branch
House Sparrow – image by fsanchex from Getty Images

The Sparrows in the UK range from 14 to 17 cm (5.5-6.7 in.) in length. There are two very common species and two may be seen as they migrate.

The House Sparrow is a species that can be seen pretty much anywhere in the world. Their numbers have been speedily declining. According to this article from The Guardian, there are 247 million fewer House Sparrows in Europe than there were in 1980.

a Eurasian Tree Sparrow perched on a branch
Eurasian Tree Sparrow – image by UrosPoteko from Canva

The Eurasian Tree Sparrow is the other common species of Sparrow in the UK. They are smaller than House Sparrows and more active.

The more uncommon Sparrows can be seen below:

a Spanish Sparrow and a Rock Sparrow

Learn more about what small birds eat in this article from Birdwatch World.

8. Kinglets and Firecrests

There are just two birds in this group and they are the smallest birds in the UK.

a Goldcrest perched in a tree
Goldcrest – image by TT from Getty Images

The Goldcrest, clearly named for the stunning gold crest on its head, is the smallest bird in the UK at just 8.5-9.5 cm (3.3-3.7 in.) long.

Goldcrests are very common across all of the UK. They eat aphids, moths, spiders, and other small arthropods. Their tiny beak is ideal for picking insects out from between pine needles.

a Common Firescrest perched on a bush
Common Firecrest – image by Andyworks from Getty Images Signature

The Common Firecrest is only slightly bigger than the Goldcrest at 9 cm (3.5 in.) in length.

They are similar in plumage to the Goldcrest but with a less prominent yellow stripe on their heads and black and white striping on their faces.

A small number of Firecrests breed in the UK, mostly in England’s southeast.

Listen to the calls of these cute little birds below:



9. Accentors

I put all three Accentors that can be found in the UK in the article, even though one of them, the Alpine Accentor is 15-19 cm (5.9-7.5 in.) long. It only just scraped in.

an Alpine Accentor perched on a rock
Alpine Accentor – image by kurkul from Getty Images

There are currently 38 observations of the Alpine Accentor in the UK on eBird.org, the worldwide platform for the collection of data on bird sightings.

The other two are the Siberian Accentor which is 13-15 cm (5.1-5.9 in.), and the Dunnock which measures around 14.5 cm (5.7 in.) in length.

a Siberian Accentor and a Dunnock

The Siberian Accentor has been sighted 43 times and photographed 48 times on eBird.org.

The Dunnock is a bird that is regularly seen all across the UK. They will stay close to cover, often seen creeping along the edges of flower beds.

10. Swallows and Martins

a Common House Martin perched on the ground with a beak full of dirt and other debris
Common House-Martin – image by ffaber53 from Getty Images Pro

Swallows and Martins are common areal specialists in many parts of the world, catching insects on the wing with skills rivaling the best stunt pilots.

The birds we’re including here are between 12 and 15 cm (4.7-5.9 in.) in length.

The two most common UK birds in this category are the Common House-Martin (seen above) and the Sand Martin (below).

a Sand Martin perched on a barbed wire fence
Sand Martin – image by Leopardinatree from Getty Images Signature

There are three other birds that have been spotted in the United Kingdom on rare occasions; they are pictured below:

a Tree Swallow, a Cliff Swallow, and a Eurasian Crag-martin

Tree Swallows are only ever reported on the Isles of Scilly in Cornwall and even then, there are only 5 reported observations on eBird.org. It is likely these birds crossed the Atlantic and ended up in the Isles after wintering in Africa or elsewhere in Europe.

Eurasian Crag-martins prefer mountains and coastal cliffs. They have been recorded at Undercliffe and Kingsdown beach, Kent, and also strangely enough at the Chesterfield Parish Church in Derbyshire.

Cliff Swallows have been seen in Suffolk and in the Isles of Scilly, among other places.

11. Treecreepers

Our last two types of small birds that can be found in the UK are Treecreepers. Both species are the same size at around 12.5 cm (4.9 in.) long.

a Eurasian Treecreeper clinging to the trunk of a tree
Eurasian Treecreeper – image by Arto Griinari from Getty Images

As their name suggests, Treecreepers “creep” up the trunks of trees, collecting insects, spiders, and sometimes seeds.

The Eurasian Treecreeper (pictured above) is very common in forests and woodland. Generally, they favor older spruce as they need established trees with lots of cracks and crevices for spiders and insects to hide in.

Listen to the melodious call of the Eurasian Treecreeper below:

a Short-toed Treecreeper on a log
Short-toed Treecreeper – image by hfoxfoto from Getty Images

The Short-toed Treecreeper (above) eats insect larvae and pupae, as well as spiders and some seeds.

They can be found in mixed and deciduous woodlands, especially Oak.

Hear the call of the Short-toed Treecreeper below:


Barry Callister

Barry is a bird photographer and bird watcher with over 7 years of experience. He runs his own YouTube channel about photography and promotes his nature photography on his personal website barrycallisterphotography.com.au.

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