The most familiar of British swans is the mis-named mute swan, which not only makes a musical whistling sound with its wings while flying, but also utters a variety of grunts and hisses. The mute swan is a resident breeder in Britain, nesting in inland lakes (like the Ruislip Lido) and rivers and moving only very short distances in winter
The Canada goose, introduced into Britain as an ornamental bird some three centuries ago, is now the most widespread and numerous goose of inland waters. The introductions were made on to the lakes of large estates and stately homes in the Midlands and south of England and the largest flocks are still found there.
Undoubtedly Britain's most popular bird is the robin. In fact, some years ago it was declared our 'national' bird, and even those with little or no interest in birds would know a robin. The robin has a pleasant thin warbling song, whilst the males are highly territorial and will fight and drive off intruders.
The green woodpecker is arguably our most handsome woodpecker. The contrast of its red top-knot with its green and yellow plumage, and its loud ringing cry both seem rather exotic in the quiet British countryside. Green woodpeckers can often be seen singly or in pairs on Poor's Field, hunting around ant hills.
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.
A woodland bird, the nuthatch is often seen with the tree creeper, willow warbler and chiffchaff. The nuthatch can be seen running up tree trunks and along branches; the nuthatch also runs down tree trunks, the only British bird able to do this. The nuthatch's plumage is blue-grey and pale chestnut, with a short straight bill. It has a variety of loud ringing calls, especially in spring.
The lesser spotted woodpecker is an uncommon bird and hardly bigger than a sparrow. 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.
The Greater spotted woodpecker is 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. It is found anywhere with large mature trees that contain holes suitable for nesting in.
The cuckoo is a dove-sized bird with blue grey upper parts, head and chest with dark barred white under parts. With their sleek body, long tail and pointed wings they are not unlike kestrels or sparrowhawks. Sexes are similar and the young are brown. They are summer visitors and well-known brood parasites, the females laying their eggs in the nests of other birds, especially meadow pipits, dunnocks and reed warblers.
The slate-grey males of the Sparrowhawk are smaller than the brown females. Sparrowhawks feed mostly on woodland birds (making them less easy to spot), which they surprise with a short dash from a perch or take unawares as they round a bush or hedge. Sparrowhawks are usually seen when they circle overhead, often mobbed by small birds, or as they move from one wood to the next.
Like the nuthatch, the tree creeper can be seen running up tree trunks or along large branches. The tree creeper has a dull brown plumage and long curved bill; its song and call are both very high pitched.
The tawny owl is an owl the size of a pigeon. It has a rounded body and head, with a ring of dark feathers around its face surrounding the dark eyes. It is mainly reddish brown above and paler underneath. Tawny owls live and breed in deciduous and coniferous woodland, but will also live in farmland and gardens, parks and churchyards where there are suitable nest sites in large trees.
The tawny owl is nocturnal so it is often heard calling at night, but much less often seen. In the daytime, you may see one only if you disturb it inadvertently from its roost site in woodland up against a tree trunk or among ivy. Look for pellets below roosting places.
The Willow tit is between blue and great tits in size, with no yellow, green or blue. It has a large sooty-black cap extending to the back of the neck and a small untidy black bib. It is mid-brown above, with whiter cheeks and pale buff-grey under-parts.
They like damp stands of trees close to rivers, streams and gravel pits, preferring willows, birch and alder, as well as conifers. They also like undergrowth in clearings within old broadleaved woodland, and are sometimes found in tall, ancient, hedgerows, and even dry, scrubby bushes on chalk hills. Willow tits are often, but by no means exclusively, found in willow thickets in damp places, such as the edge of lowland peat bogs, marshes, and around gravel pits.
The woodcock is a large bulky wading bird with short legs, and a very long straight tapering bill. It is largely nocturnal, spending most of the day in dense cover.
The Woodcock can be found in large tracts of moist woodland with open glades and rides, dense ground cover of bracken and brambles and damp areas for feeding.
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