Birdwatching Guide: March

Birdwatching Guide: March

As we head into March, we're officially into spring. Sometimes it can feel like those dark winter nights last forever, but the days will get noticeably lighter from now on. And with nature reawakening after its winter slumber, March is a great time to get reacquainted with our avian neighbours.

It's a little bit early for most birds to breed- the majority do this in April. However, this year saw many flowers blooming a month early due to the especially mild winter. Since nature's clock tends to all sync up, that could well mean that some breeds begin laying their eggs early, too.

Even if not, birds start preparing their nests well in advance, to make sure they are ready and have access to a reliable source of food. Egg-laying is a demanding process, and females need to be sure they are fully prepared. If you haven't already, now is the time to get the feeding table set up to encourage regular visitors for the rest of the season.

And to top it all off, we're now entering the season where all the birds who flew away for the winter start to return to our shores. Most will be back in April, but some, like chiffchaffs, come back to the UK in March. You might even see some early swallows later in the month.

So, dig out your binoculars- here are some of the species you can expect to see in March.

Related: Top 10 Best Binoculars for Birdwatching


The humble dunnock isn't exactly one of the most flashy garden birds you can spot this March. With its dull brown and grey colouring, it can be easy to overlook this species. What's more, dunnocks are particularly shy birds, with a distinctive nervous hop, and are quick to fly away if they feel they are being watched.

But dunnocks have a lovely song that's quite easy to recognise. And while they may be shy, they certainly don't back down from a fight with other male dunnocks. Around this time of year, when they are staking out territory and a mate for the spring, they can become quite feisty when they come across a potential rival. They'll flick their wings and shout at each other until one of them backs down.

Sometimes called "hedge sparrows", dunnocks are commonly found around the hedgerows where they like to make their nests. If you want to attract dunnocks to your garden, make sure to spread some seed on the ground- they will rarely venture up to a bird feeder.


Another species that's not especially exciting- but a sure sign that we've entered spring. Blackbirds are nature's early risers- when you hear birdsong at dawn, it's more than likely that it's a blackbird singing. March is a great time for catching this, since the sun comes up at a reasonable time.

Blackbirds are also quite friendly birds, and once they visit a garden once, they will be back again and again. Male blackbirds live up to their names, but females are dark brown, with lighter brown stripes on their breast.

Blackbirds will gladly eat food left out for them, especially mealworms or fat-based bird food. However, their favourite thing to eat is earthworms. They can often be found with their heads cocked close to the ground, listening out for movement just below the surface. When they hear their prey- snap! They will peck down with their long yellow beaks to catch the unsuspecting worm. This process takes time, giving birdwatchers plenty of time to observe them.


A small, olive-coloured bird, about the size of a blue tit, the chiffchaff gets its onomatopoeic name from its distinctive call. Chiffchaffs migrate in the winter, but are one of the first species to return, and thus a sure sign that spring has arrived.

Chiffchaffs feed mostly on insects, and can usually be found flitting between branches in search of prey. While many other species are in decline, the chiffchaff population has flourished in recent decades, doubling since the 1970s- partially as a result of our warming climate.

Come the end of March, female chiffchaffs will start building their nests. Unlike most species, they nest on or close to the ground, in distinctive dome-shaped nests.

Song thrush

Finally, another member of the growing spring chorus: the song thrush. Often heard alongside blackbirds, song thrushes tends to repeat short snatches of melody over and over. Although they are small, they can certainly belt this out, and are one of the louder garden birds to be heard around this time of year.

While most species won't begin breeding until April, the song thrush is a step ahead of the game. From the end of March onwards, they begin laying their distinctive spotty blue eggs. This allows them to fit in up to three broods per year.

Like blackbirds song thrushes' favourite food is earthworms. When they can't find any, though, they will prey on snails instead. To get into the snail's shell, they will bash it against a rock- behaviour that is unique to this species.

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