Birdwatching Guide: May

Birdwatching Guide: May

It's summer! Well, hopefully. While May is technically the last month of spring, it usually heralds the first properly hot weather of the year. That's good for us, but it also means a shift in the natural world. In particular, many species of birds which spend the winter in warmer climes will return to our shores to see out the summer. We've rounded up just a few of our favourites that you'll be able to spot in the months to come.


We already mentioned swifts in last month's blog post, but May is when the majority of these birds will return to the UK. As a medium-sized bird that spends almost all of its time on the wing, they are fairly easy to spot. They even sleep in flight!

Swifts are often confused with swallows, since they both migrate to the UK around this time of year. However, once you know the difference, it's easy for even an beginner birder to tell them apart. Swifts are much darker in colour, often appearing completely black against the sky. What's more, swifts rarely land, whereas swallows can often be found perched on fences and telephone wires.

House Martin

Another bird returning from warmer climes this month is the house martin. They get their name from their habitat, typically building their nests out of mud in the space below the eaves of buildings. Although still a common sight throughout the country throughout the summer months, the number of house martins has seen a significant decline in recent years. As a result, they have been placed on the RSPB's "red list" of species.

Willow Warbler

Last month, we highlighted the chiff chaff. Well, this month we've got a very similar species for you: the willow warbler. These are often confused with chiff chaffs because they look almost identical. The one small difference between them is a small yellow stripe above the chiff chaff's eye- but that's not easy to spot with such small, active birds.

Fortunately, there's a much easier way to distinguish between these two species: their song. While the chiff chaff gets its name from its distinctive onomatopoeic song, the willow warbler has a more conventional song. It's hard to describe, but when you hear it, you'll know summer has arrived.


No prizes for guessing how the yellowhammer got its name. These birds are among the brightest you'll spot this month, with a yellow head and breast and a brown-and-black-streaked back that segues into chestnut towards the bottom. If you've got a good pair of binoculars to hand, then try and spot whether the next yellowhammer you see is male or female. Females have more distinctive black stripes running down their head and breast.

Yellowhammers are also notable for their call, memorably described by Beatrix Potter as sound like "a-little-bit-of-bread-and-no-cheese".

Leave a comment

Please note, comments need to be approved before they are published.