Birds of Hindolveston – A Tour Guide by Luke Nash
Local resident and school boy, Luke Nash, has compiled this excellent tour guide to the birds you can see around the village and in the near vicinity. With each bird mentioned there is an associated photo taken by Luke – just click on the name of the bird to see each one. The majority of the photos were taken in the local area and have been grouped into a separate page entitled Birds of Hindol which can be found in the Galleries section of the website.
The Blackbird, a common visitor to gardens, hedgerows & elsewhere throughout Hindolveston, surprisingly does not live up to its name to a full extent, as it is only fully-grown males who are all black; youngsters & females are brown & speckly on the front.
A hedge-dwelling species often heard throughout the summer, Blackcaps get their name from the black patch on top of their head. Though present in the village throughout the year, they are more conspicuous & easily spotted here in the spring and early summer before they start breeding. Apart from their distinguishing ‘cap’, they are fairly plain overall, with a dusky grey coloured underside & a slightly darker upperside. Note that females actually have a brown cap, lest this be a source of confusion!
You are more likely to see Black-headed Gulls flying over the village than perched like this one in the photo. However, they are sometimes seen looking for food on open areas of short grass, like the Rec, and also in ploughed fields surrounding the village. In summer time, these birds will not have the classic chocolate-brown hood like the one in the photo, and in winter they only have a small smudge of brown behind the eye, though this may not be immediately apparent.
A common & well-known visitor to garden bird tables, the Blue Tit is one of the more under-appreciated birds in both the village; if you want to attract them to your garden, then they will pretty much come to anything (though niger seed is not particularly good). In the summer & autumn, you may see younger birds, which are the same except much plainer & overall more yellow.
If you were to look up to the sky on a clear or slightly cloudy day with very little wind, then you may chance upon a Buzzard flying over, especially if you’re near to wooded areas. You can tell these birds because of their distinctive fan-tail shape & feather patterns on their bellies; however, this does vary an awful lot, from dark brown birds shown in the picture to an almost plain & entirely white variant.
Chaffinches are often found around garden feeders & seeds, or otherwise amongst patches of trees or woodland; like its close relatives, they show a preference towards sunflower heart seeds or other thin seeds that don’t require much pressure to crack. Though males like the one in the picture are bright red & very colourful, the females are a much more drab pale brown.
A rarer member of the tit family on feeders around the village is the Coal Tit: you can immediately tell this bird apart due to its smaller size & lack of any distinct coloration. Like its relatives, it will often hang around close to feeders, though they will require trees nearby in order for them to be attracted to your garden.
An exotic European species, Collared Doves only started occurring in the UK in 1952, but now they are practically everywhere, and it’s very hard to go anywhere without seeing one, especially on electricity wires & sometimes in gardens. They are a pale tea-colour overall, with a pinkish chest & a very distinctive red eye & the black collar around the neck, hence the name.
Though sometimes aptly known as the ‘Hedge Sparrow’, Dunnocks are actually more closely related to the Robin (see below) than sparrows, in a family known as the ‘accentors’. Their alternative name comes from their hedge-dwelling habits & also that their plumage is overall very sparrow-like. This is apart from a very distinctive lead-grey throat pattern which stretches up the back of the head to the crown.
The smallest bird in Britain, Goldcrests are often found high up in the trees, calling quietly & flicking around the branches. When seen, they are easily identified by their golden-yellow crown after which they are named.
Bright & colourful, Goldfinches are a marvellous splash of colour anywhere: they will eat practically any seed, though niger seed is almost guaranteed to bring them in to your back garden. With their bright red faces & dazzling yellow wings, they’re certainly not hard to miss either.
A charismatic yet highly vulnerable bird, Greenfinches are slightly less common than other finches, in part due to a disease called trichomonosis sweeping through the global population in the last few decades. They are easy to distinguish due to their overall green tone, with younger birds like the one in the photo being a bit browner on their front.
Though mostly confined to water, Grey Herons in the village are either seen flying over, particularly in the western end, or in shallow, well-watered ditches & streams, particularly along the footpath heading towards Wood Norton & also in the horse paddocks as you exit the village towards Swanton Novers.
A common & very noisy part of the village avifauna, House Sparrows are ubiquitous, though almost entirely confined to built-up areas. They will often show well in hedgerows & dead trees in the village itself: despite their abundance, the UK population is declining rapidly for reasons that are not yet clear.
The member of the crow family in the village that is one of the easiest to identify is the Jackdaw: they are smaller than other corvids, and also have a unique eye colour & slightly greyish sheen across their abdomen. You will often see them crowing away in the village and also in surrounding fields.
Most of the time the only thing you will see of a Jay is as it flies up ahead of your car, with its brown rear with a white flash on the rump disappearing high into the trees. However, on closer inspection, this bird displays a vast array of colouring, including a speckled blue wing. Very rarely seen perched.
Often seen batting over fields in a steady yet often speedy way are Kestrels: when hunting, they will hover above the ground in order to detect its food, in this case mice & voles, which are running around amongst vegetation. Males have a very rufous brown back, with a blue ‘hood’ & creamy-yellow underparts, and females & young birds are scaly & brown.
Inhabiting similar habitats as the Grey Heron, the Little Egret is almost all-white, though sometimes during the spring courtship periods it gains some faint pink colouration at the base of the bill. Also like the Grey Heron, the Little Egret flies with its neck bent, resulting in the bird’s silhouette having a noticeable ‘kink’ beneath its head when in flight.
Inhabiting barns & other external farm buildings is the Little Owl. Though the adults are rather brown, a highlight of the spring is seeing the fluffy young exploring around the nest before they fledge. They are more conspicuous immediately either side of nightfall, though the adults may feed at any time of the day.
Perhaps a much more extravagant member of the tit family, the Long-tailed Tits are known for being extremely communal, as when they are not breeding, whole families will roam around the entire village & the surrounding area looking for food, typically seeds, and they will come to household feeders.
Common in the agricultural pastures around the village, the Meadow Pipit is very plain brown & unfortunately rather drab, but their songflight, like that of the Skylark, is a welcome addition to the repertoire of the fauna of the countryside. Breeding populations are supplemented in winter by arrivals from Scandinavia & European Russia.
An exotic Roman introduction from Asia, Pheasants are a common sight in any garden around the village but also extensively in the surrounding countryside, where birds reared in captivity are released for shooting, The males, especially, with their red & green face pattern, are a sight to behold. The body is extremely variable; though it is often brown, individuals with black, green & even silver patterning have been seen in & around the village, stemming from the extensive selective breeding done by gamekeepers.
Once a common sight in the English countryside, Red Kites were nearly hunted to extinction in the UK in the 19th & early 20th centuries, but through various reintroduction programmes & careful management of the remaining natural breeding sites in Wales in the 1980s, they’re making a comeback, and indeed are occasionally seen in the village from time to time. They are easily told apart from other raptors by their forked-tail (most other species have a tail shaped like a fan)
Another species supplemented by gamekeepers’ releases, the Red-legged Partridge, also known to some as the ‘French Partridge’, is now replacing the similar & now highly-threatened congener, the Grey Partridge, as the one most frequently seen in the English countryside. Though both have been encountered in the village, it is this species which you are more likely to see.
A much-loved & thankfully common garden species which was recently voted as the UK’s national bird, the Robin is a welcome addition to any garden, especially at Christmas time when it is further symbolised in the public eye. It is also one of several passerines, along with certain members of the tit family, where the sexes cannot be reliably told apart in the field.
While its larger rookeries are spectacles of wonder, in Hindolveston we only generally get small numbers of Rooks frequenting the agricultural fields around the village. Though the adults are easily identified by their silver bill, the juveniles are remarkably similar to other crow species. These birds tend to nest in tall trees in colonies, a sight sometimes encountered around the village.
A fast-declining species, the Song Thrush’s song, a continuous utterance of varying two or three note melodies, captured the hearts of many-a-Victorian poet, but it is now under threat due to losses in habitat. It is easily told apart by its olive-coloured back & spotty under parts.
Another highly-threatened species for reasons that are not quite understood, Starlings are often seen sat on electricity wires in small groups, which also fly around the village in small groups of black shapes. Though it may look plain initially, you will find upon closer inspection that these birds have an unrivalled glossy patterning across their whole bodies.
A common summer visitor to the village, Swallows, with their bright blue heads, red faces, white bodies & long, forked tails, fly around residential areas & perch on protruding objects like TV aerials and electricity wires. They nest communally in the eaves of houses & feed on insects in the sky. Their flight makes a pretty sight throughout the village in the summer.
Swifts breed in the eaves underneath the former Methodist Church near the village hall, and in the evening they all come out to feed whilst ‘screaming’. They fly very fast & are known to whiz around your heads. Unfortunately, they typically disappear very early, as early as the start of August right through till September.
A recent addition to the village avifauna, a male Turtle Dove has recently been heard along Church Lane. Its gentle, purring-like vocals mean it is often heard first, but when it is seen, they are a rosy-pink with a metallic blue head & speckled brown upper parts. These birds have declined widely in Britain due to them being shot en masse whilst migrating in the Mediterranean.
Characterised & named after its white throat, the Whitethroat lives in hedges & bushes alongside several family members like the Blackcap. Similarly, it is much more conspicuous in the spring when it’s trying to attract a mate. Another species, the Lesser Whitethroat, which is much smaller & greyer, is occasionally found alongside it.
The commonest bird on this list, the Woodpigeon is an abundant presence in the village in all habitats, with its cooing & wing-flapping sounds filling the village in spring. They are mostly quite tame and will come down to garden seed.