Bird Families Found in the British Garden
This summer visitor is quite a common garden bird, even occupying large town gardens. It has a mousy brown back and white breast faintly streaked with brown. Its most noticeable characteristics, however, are the very upright position in which it sits and its habit of swooping out to catch flies, returning to the same perch a number of times.
DUNNOCK OR HEDGE SPARROW
This is a quiet, unobtrusive little brown bird (5-¾ in.), rather sparrow-like but with a slender, sharp-pointed bill, a grey breast and the habit of frequently flicking its wings. It spends much of its time on the ground and may be reluctant to visit the bird table. Its song is a hurried jingly warble rather similar to the wren’s but not so loud.
Three species of wagtail breed in the British Isles but only the pied wagtail (7 in.) is in any way a garden bird. It is a black and white bird, with a very long tail which is for ever dipping up and down as it runs in search of food. The winter plumage is drabber. The young ones have grey backs and are much less boldly marked, their appearance being rather smutty.
From a distance the starling (8-½ in.) appears to be black, but a closer view reveals iridescent purples and greens in the adult birds, while in early winter the whole plumage is heavily flecked with a golden-brown. The bill is yellow in the breeding season, blackish at other times of the year. The yellow may start to appear as early as December; by July or August it will have disappeared again. Juveniles, which are usually very noisy, are a mousy brown, but they start moulting out of this plumage when only about two months old, darker feathers with pale tips slowly replacing the brown.
The head is the last part to moult. Starlings in partial moult may be difficult to identify, but they have short tails and they always walk instead of hopping. The starling is a great mimic and its cheerful, wheezy song may include snatches of the songs of other birds.