The 10 Smallest Birds in the UK (With Pictures)

The 10 Smallest Birds in the UK (With Pictures)

If you’ve seen a fleeting glimpse of a tiny bird with a golden crest or spotted a tiny round bird in a bush, you probably wonder what you’ve seen if you aren’t yet familiar with the smallest birds in the UK.

Everyone knows about robins, but what about the Wren and various species of tits? If you’ve seen a tiny bird in the UK, you’ll likely be able to identify it with this article.

From the fiery crests of Goldcrests and Firecrests to the cheerful Long-tailed Tit and the loud but shy Wren, we’ll have a look at all of them. You’ll also learn how to tell the difference between small birds that could almost be identical twins!

1. Goldcrest

Scientific Name: Regulus Regulus

  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Size: 9cm (3.5in)
  • Weight: 5g (0.18oz)
  • Wingspan: 14-15cm (5.5-5.9in)
  • Population: 610,000 breeding territories
  • Status: Green

The UK’s smallest bird, the Goldcrest, is greyish-green and has a yellow crest with a black stripe and a greenish-yellow eye stripe (or none). They are very similar to the Firecrest in looks and size. Both species are very fun to watch if you manage to spot them. Their crests usually rest against their head but are an amazing sight when the birds display them.


They’re tiny little birds, so they logically eat small stuff: spiders, small flying insects, moth eggs, and other small tasty morsels. They live in woodland, parks, and gardens. While they prefer insects as a meal, they won’t say no to some stuff they can find in bird feeders, especially if you have suet feeders.

2. Firecrest

  • Scientific Name: Regulus ignicapillus
  • Lifespan: 6 years
  • Size: 9.3cm (3.7in)
  • Weight: 6g (0.21oz)
  • Wingspan: 14-15cm (5.5-5.9in)
  • Population: 550 breeding territories
  • Status: Green

The Firecrest is much rarer than the Goldcrest, and many people have problems differentiating them. Firecrests, who mainly eat insects and invertebrates, are usually found in woodland in Southern England (especially in coniferous and mixed woodland).


In comparison to the Goldcrest, the Firecrest has an orange crest with a black stripe and a black eye stripe. While not the most reliable indicator, the Firecrest tends to be a little less “chubby/round” and cleaner in color contrasts than Goldcrests.

3. Wren

  • Scientific Name: Troglodytes troglodytes
  • Lifespan: 4 years
  • Size: 9cm (3.5in)
  • Weight: 7-12g (0.25-0.42oz)
  • Wingspan: 16-18cm (6.3-7in)
  • Population: 8-11 million breeding territories
  • Status: Amber

The Wren, the most numerous breeding bird in the UK, is interesting. While incredibly tiny, it looks even tinier than other birds because it holds its tail upright often. However, it weighs more than the Goldcrest and Firecrest, so it isn’t quite the smallest UK bird.

Looking at it, you can only describe this bird as “pretty round”. Though, it’s not always easy to spot a Wren. They are numerous (but often in decline during winter), but they’re also tiny, fast, and not into people.


Often, you’ll hear them without ever seeing them. Wrens are good singers. Their voice is one of the loudest of any British bird in proportion to its size. If you see a Wren while hearing it sing, the voice volume might come as a real surprise!

You’ll notice that Wrens are always on the move. They must constantly eat to maintain their energy levels and feast on insects, spiders, and other small invertebrates.

4. Goldfinch

  • Scientific Name: Carduelis carduelis
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Size: 12-13cm (4.7-5.1in)
  • Weight: 14-18g (0.49-0.63oz)
  • Wingspan: 21-25cm (8.3-9.8in)
  • Population: 1.2 million pairs
  • Status: Green

The UK Goldfinch, not to be confused with the American Goldfinch for which the name “Gold” makes more sense, is an interesting-looking bird with a bright red face surrounded by a white circle and a patch of black on the top of its head and black eye stripes. Much of the Goldfinch’s body is cream-colored, brown, and white, while the wings are black with bright yellow wing patches.


The Goldfinch is very common in the UK and can be found in various habitats, including urban and suburban areas. Thanks to the bird’s comparably thin beak, it can feed on seeds inaccessible to birds with bigger beaks (like thistles and teasels). They’ll also eat insects and are happy to visit a bird feeder.

5. Coal Tit

  • Scientific Name: Periparus ater
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Size: 11.5cm (4.5in)
  • Weight: About 9g (0.32oz)
  • Wingspan: 18-20cm (7-7.9in)
  • Population: 670,000-680,000 breeding territories
  • Status: Green

The coal tit stays in the UK in various habitats, including woodland, parks, and gardens. They usually nest in tree holes but sometimes in nest boxes provided by humans. You can recognize the coal tit by its black cap and bib, white cheeks, and a distinctive white spot on the nape. The back and wings are olive-gray, with pale wing bars.

Coal Tit

The coal tit mainly eats spiders and insects, but also some seeds and berries. It has a smaller bill than other birds from the Tit family, which helps this little bird to feed in conifers. They also visit bird feeders. You’ll often notice them come and go. This is because they’ll take away some food and store it for later.

6. Marsh Tit

  • Scientific Name: Poecile palustris
  • Lifespan:
  • Size: 12cm (4.7in)
  • Weight: 11-14g (0.39-0.49oz)
  • Wingspan: 18-20cm (7-7.9in)
  • Population: 41,000 breeding territories
  • Status: Red

The Marsh Tit and Willow Tit are another couple of very similar bird species. Fun Fact: Even ornithologists couldn’t tell the difference until 1897. They thought Willow Tits and Marsh Tits were the same species!

The Marsh Tit is mainly brown and has a distinctive back cap. Their belly is pale, and they have a neat bib under their beak. One way to know you’re not looking at a Willow Tit is to listen to their call. A Marsh Tit has a distinctive ‘pitchoo’ call, which sounds like a sneeze. They like eating insects and seeds.

Marsh Tit

Like other tits, they like hoarding food if they find a bountiful food source (like a bird feeder). Compared to other tits, however, their hippocampus is pretty big, which makes it easier for them to remember where they hid their food – unlike the Great Tit, which sometimes forgets where the food is stored.

7. Willow Tit

  • Scientific Name: Poecile montanus
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Size: 12cm (4.7in)
  • Weight: 10-13g (0.35-0.46oz)
  • Wingspan: 18-20cm (7-7.9in)
  • Population: 3,400 pairs
  • Status: Red

Compared to the Marsh Tit, Willow Tits have a larger swathe of white curving up behind the eye and sweeping back across the cheeks to the nape. Their cap isn’t as “shiny” and more like a sooty black. While Marsh Tits have a pale ‘cutting’ edge to their beaks which can be seen up close, Willow Tits do not have this. Willow Tits also have a more pronounced white wing bar than Marsh Tits.

Willow Tit

Compared to the Marsh Tit, their call is also different. They have a more nasal and buzzing call, which sounds like a “szi-szi-dzee-dzee!” or “zi-zi-tah-tah-tah!”, quite different from the Marsh Tit’s sneezing call.

Like other tits, these little wonders like eating insects, seeds and berries. Sadly, the Marsh Tit and Willow Tit have more than looks in common. They are both declining in numbers, which is worse for the Willow Tit as its numbers are already comparably small.

8. Blue Tit

  • Scientific Name: Cyanistes caeruleus
  • Lifespan: 2 years
  • Size: 12cm (4.7in)
  • Weight: 11-13g (0.39-0.46oz)
  • Wingspan: 18-20cm (7-7.9in)
  • Population: 3,600,000 breeding territories
  • Status: Green

Blue Tits are numerous and a tit species you likely won’t confuse with another one. They are comparably colorful, with a mix of blue, yellow, white, and green feathers. The top of their head is a beautiful blue, their cheeks are white, and their belly bright yellow.

Blue Tit

Blue Tits love insects, caterpillars, seeds, and nuts. They’re also happy to help themselves to what you offer them in a bird feeder. They often take food away to share with other tits, especially in winter when tit families come together to improve survival.

For each Blue Tit at your feeder in winter, you can assume that you’ll probably feed 2-3 additional Blue Tits.

9. Robin

  • Scientific Name: Erithacus rubecula
  • Lifespan: 1.5-2 years
  • Size: 12.5cm (4.9in)
  • Weight: 16-22g (0.56-0.78oz)
  • Wingspan: 20-22cm (8-8.5in)
  • Population: 6,700,000 breeding territories
  • Status: Green

The Robin (not to be confused with the different-looking USA Robin) is a bird you’ll often see on Christmas cards in the UK. The Robin is a plump bird with a bright orange-red breast, brown back and wings, and a white throat and underparts. It has a black head and bib and a long, slender beak.


People tend to notice Robins more during the winter months. They aren’t very shy and don’t slow down at any time of the year. Gardeners usually have Robins watching their every move. They sit on shovels and wheelbarrows, waiting for the human gardener to disturb some yummy morsel (like worms). Easy pickings for them! In general, Robins eat a variety of insects, fruits, and berries.

In the UK, these little birds are seen as a symbol of hope and resilience during the dark winter months. People like to ignore (or are not aware) that these little darlings are quite aggressive when defending their territory. That’s why you won’t see flocks of Robins. Sometimes, a few Robins will form a loose group for survival reasons, but it doesn’t take much for these groups to disperse. Robins don’t like other Robins very much.

10. Long-tailed Tit

  • Scientific Name: Aegithalos caudatus
  • Lifespan: 3 years
  • Size: 14cm (5.5in)
  • Weight: 5-8g (0.18-0.28oz)
  • Wingspan: 22-24cm (8.7-9.4in)
  • Population: 340,000 breeding territories
  • Status: Green

The Long-Tailed Tit is the last tit on our list of the 10 smallest UK birds. This little bird is easily recognizable because of its long tail (surprise!). This beautiful bird has a distinctive blush black and white coloring. Its black and white tail is longer than its body.

The Long-tailed Tit has a black, white, and pink back, a white head with a wide, black eyestripe, and a pale pink belly.

Long-tailed Tit

These small birds are entertaining as they have a pretty bouncy flight pattern. They turn up in pairs or small – and surprisingly noisy – groups. Long-tailed Tits mainly eat insects but will also eat seeds, particularly in autumn and winter when the insect supply is a little less abundant.


Observing these small birds in their natural habitats is a delightful experience, and it’s awesome if they come to your bird feeder during the colder months. These tiny birds bring a touch of wonder and charm to your garden, no matter whether it’s the colorful Blue Tit or the black and white Coal Tit.

While most of these small UK birds are still very numerous, we must ensure that woodlands, gardens, and parks are safe as life for birds in the UK is not becoming easier. You can help by creating a bird-friendly environment with bird feeders and nest boxes.

It also helps when people plant native flora in their gardens and reduce the use of pesticides (insects are a main staple for many small UK birds).

Join the discussion

  • Wow that was very informative and I never new the tit family take food to eathier share or keep for later,I’m glad to say I have regular visits from coal tit,green finch and of course the boss ,ha the robin red breast

  • We are lucky enough to live near marshes and surrounded by countryside in 3 directions. Robins, blue tits, coal tits, long-tailed tits and goldfinches are regulars at certain times of the year.
    15 years ago the village was even blessed with a visit from a N.American white-crowned sparrow in 2008.

  • 9/1/24
    I have just seen a new variety of bird in my bird feeder and I really don’t know what it is…
    It’s completely black small, slightly smaller than a blue tit and wren, short tail, black beak was feeding on the fat block and peanuts.
    I also have a dozen or more long tailed tits, blue tits and great tits, sparrows, Robins and blackbirds and greedy starlings.
    And for good measure greater spotted woodpeckers, our garden backs onto a bit of land with ash, oak and silver birch trees and brambles then farm fields.
    I look forward to anyone who can tell me what this tiny little black bird could be and maybe with a photo. It’s a complete mystery to me and it’s not a coal tit…..

  • I was hoping to see the tiny bird I saw today in the trees around the Levenhall Links boating lake, but sadly it isn’t listed. It was the same shape and as small as a goldcrest and flitting around like they do in our ferns in the Scottish Borders. It was an indistinct grey colour with a high front red throat.