What's The Most Common Bird In London?

By M@

Last Updated 10 April 2024

What's The Most Common Bird In London?
Stop sniggering. We all got over that joke in secondary school
A great tit in Penge, by street artist Aspire. Image: Matt Brown

Is it a sparrow? Is it a pigeon? Let's have a look at the commonest birds in London.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has just released the results of its Big Garden Birdwatch. The annual survey encourages the public to spend an hour counting every species of bird to land in the back garden. It's nation-wide, but the survey results are broken down by county, and that includes Greater London*.

Without additional avian ado, here are the top 10 sightings in our region, over the weekend of 26-28 January 2024:

1. House sparrow
2. Blue tit
3. Wood pigeon
4. Starling
5. Feral pigeon
6. Magpie
7. Great tit
8. Robin
9. Ring-necked parakeet
10. Carrion crow

Results based on 19,301 responses.

It's wonderful to see the plucky sparrow topping the list. The bird has long been a symbol of the Cockney east end, but its numbers seem to have plummeted centrally over recent years. It appears the pint-sized passerine is fairing better in the gardens of suburbia. This was also the most commonly spotted bird nationally.

A ring-necked parakeet on a man's hand, nibbling an apple
A ring-necked parakeet in Kensington Gardens — more common than crows. Image: Matt Brown

Interesting to see the parakeet in at number 9. Whether you spy this charismatic bird in your garden will depend to some extent on where you live. The birds can be sighted all over town, but flock in particularly large number in areas such as Richmond and the south-west.

The list differs slightly from the picture nine years ago, when we last wrote about the survey. Back in 2015, the wood pigeon topped the chart, followed by sparrow, starling and blue tit. That survey also included the blackbird in sixth place, which has now flown the list.

London also differs slightly from the national picture. The top 10 garden birds across England do include the blackbird (7th place), but lack the magpie (down in 11th). The wider country's top 10 also features the goldfinch in place of our carrion crow.

A male house sparrow on a park bench
The glorious male house sparrow. Image: Matt Brown

While the exercise might not be rigorously scientific, it nevertheless provides a useful overview of what's going on in our gardens. The RSPB's Chief Executive Beccy Speight was keen to explain the importance of gardens: "Our fields, farms, and towns need help to let nature back in and gardens provide the perfect place for us as individuals to start. Providing food, shelter and water for wildlife, not using chemicals and not using peat based compost — what we do in our own backyard can make a huge difference. All of us making small changes can effect huge change."

More info on attracting more birds to your outdoor space (even if it's a balcony or yard) can be found here. The survey results are in a spreadsheet.

*We're assured that back gardens do exist in London, though the devil alone knows how anybody can afford one.