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Birds With Red Heads: Common and Lesser Seen Species in the UK (2024)

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birds with red headsAre you curious about the different birds with red heads in the UK? It’s no wonder—their bright and vibrant plumage often stands out against their surroundings, making them a delight to spot. In this article, we’ll explore some of the more common species that have either completely or partially red heads, as well as those less seen ones that are still around but harder to come by.

From goldfinches to waxwings and pheasants, there’s something for everyone among these beautiful birds with red heads! The goldfinch is a common garden visitor with its bright scarlet face contrasting sharply with black and white markings.

Male and female chaffinches develop reddish-brown crowns during breeding season. The familiar robin redbreast is of course well known for its orange face and breast.

Then there are birds like the common redstart whose plumage lives up to its name, with the male’s tail and upperparts a striking reddish-orange. Bullfinches too have pinkish-red heads that make them easily recognizable. Slightly larger birds such as the common pheasant have rich crimson facial skin, while exotic waxwings with their punk-like crests visit in some winters, showing off their rosy-pink and yellow plumage.

While some of these red-headed birds like goldfinches and chaffinches are resident year-round, others such as waxwings are rare winter visitors. With a pair of binoculars and patience, you may be rewarded with sightings of these colorful and charismatic birds.

Key Takeaways

  • Goldfinches, Great Spotted Woodpeckers, European Green Woodpeckers, Lesser Redpolls, Linnets, Pheasants, Robins, Swallows, Lesser Spotted Woodpeckers, Little Grebes, Pochards, Red-Necked Grebes, Red-Crested Pochards, and Waxwings are all common red-headed birds in the UK.
  • The European Robin is the most common red-headed bird in the UK and is known for its territorial nature and varied diet.
  • Red-headed birds can be found across Europe, North Africa, and Asia.
  • The red breast feathers of the European Robin have a legendary origin.

The Most Common Birds With Red Heads

The Most Common Birds With Red Heads
You’ll see robins and goldfinches with crimson crowns across the South of England. The cheery robin with its distinctive red breast is probably the UK’s most beloved songbird. Goldfinches sport brilliant red faces and yellow wing bars. Their tinkling songs brighten gardens and parks.

Other birds like the exotic Bohemian waxwing visit in winter, showing off soft gray plumage and a punky crest.

Across the pond in Hawaii, tropical species like the brilliant scarlet I’iwi and crimson Apapane evolved fiery plumage to attract mates. Sadly, introduced birds now outnumber native species. Make a pilgrimage to Hawaii’s high elevation forests to see these dazzling birds before they disappear.

Join conservation efforts to save endangered endemic species in our fragile island ecosystems.


You spotted goldfinches with bright red faces in the shrubbery while hiking through the woods. The energetic goldfinch is a common sight across the UK. It has a bright red face, black and yellow wing bars, and a conical beak ideal for eating seeds.

  • Flock together while feeding and migrating
  • Breed in low scrub and gardens
  • Feed on seeds from thistles and teasels
  • Perform bounding flight with rapid wingbeats
  • Male has striking red, yellow, and black breeding plumage

The goldfinch is a highly social bird that nests together in lively flocks. It breeds later than other finches, waiting for thistles and teasels to seed in mid to late summer. With its colorful plumage and energetic behavior, the European goldfinch brings cheer wherever it goes.

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Great Spotted Woodpecker
With the mighty power of chisels, Great Spotted Woodpeckers perform percussive serenades amid trunks and branches to proclaim territory. Chestnut-backed with crimson caps and black cheek patches, these energetic arboreal acrobats are the beating heart of Britain’s woods.

Clambering up tree trunks like mice, the Great Spotted Woodpecker’s agile feet grasp rough bark while rhythmically chipping away, feasting on a bounty of ants, beetles, and larvae. Rotund bodies and sturdy tail feathers brace them against recoil of roughly 25,000 chisel strikes daily.

During courtship, jackhammer drumming echoes through leafy canopies as males seek to woo mates. Later, both male and female excavate a cavity nest in a tree or occasionally a telegraph pole. Despite nest site fidelity, Great Spotted Woodpeckers periodically relocate to conserve weakening arboreal homes.

Abundant across broadleaved and coniferous woodlands, gardens, and orchards, these characterful black-and-white birds brighten days with a frenetic forest melody. Red-crowned carpenters of Britain’s trees, Great Spotted Woodpeckers are the spirit of woods made feather, flesh, and song.

European Green Woodpecker

European Green Woodpecker
Shifting your gaze from the bright red crown of the Great Spotted Woodpecker to the vibrant green and red plumage of the European Green Woodpecker, you find yourself enthralled. As this crow-sized woodpecker forages across lawns for its ant-rich diet, its undulating flight and rolling call grab your attention.

Watching it probe the ground and hear the chicks beg from within a nest-hole reminds you – food and shelter are this bird’s main concerns.

Like all woodpeckers, strong chisel-tipped bills and specialized tail feathers allow the European Green to securely perch while excavating. Though not endangered, you feel grateful to observe this bird’s intriguing habits, knowing urbanization threatens the large trees and ant colonies it relies on.

While some introduced birds crowd Hawaii’s habitats, this woodpecker is native to the UK, dancing across the land as it has for ages.

Simply seeing its emerald wings spread wide quickens the heart.

Lesser Redpoll

Lesser Redpoll
There’s also the little redpoll, a tiny finch you’ll find flitting about woodlands and gardens. This lively bird is only 4-5 inches long and weighs less than half an ounce, but its bright crimson crown makes it stand out.

Here are 5 fascinating facts about the lesser redpoll:

  1. High-pitched twittering call
  2. Forms large flocks in winter for feeding and roosting
  3. Males have a brighter red cap than females
  4. Feeds mainly on small seeds like birch, alder and conifer
  5. Nests low in shrubs and conifers in northern forests

Though small, the lesser redpoll is a tough little bird that thrives even in harsh northern climates. Watch for its constant motion and acrobatic twists and turns as it seeks out seeds. With patience, you may spot a flock busy feeding or stumble across one of their well-hidden nests.


You’ll find linnets about if you take to the coast’s cliffs and scrub; their reddish breast reveals their presence. These lively little birds flock together, constantly on the move between low coastal hedges and beachside vegetation.

Their rapid twittering calls keep the group connected. Linnets sport handsome reddish-brown plumage accented in white, black, and blue-grey; the male’s crimson breast and face stand out brightly.

Linnets dine on seeds and insects, supplemented with flower nectar. You may spy them perched on thistles nibbling seeds. During nesting season, linnets gather hair, moss, and feathers to craft a cup-shaped nest deep in thick brambles or hedges.

The female incubates 4-6 eggs for 12-14 days until they hatch. Both parents feed the chicks.

Linnets face declining numbers, but you can aid their conservation by protecting scrub habitat.


First off, you’ll be pleased to observe the large green-headed pheasants strutting about the fields. While hiking, keep an eye out for these impressive gamebirds with long, fan-shaped tails, striking plumage, and loud, crowing calls.

Pheasants prefer farmlands with a mix of grassy fields, hedgerows, and woodland edges. Watch for males displaying to females in spring with fanned tails and pďż­-out feathers. Though not native to the UK, ring-necked pheasants were introduced from Asia and are now widespread.

Their populations boom and bust depending on conditions. Pheasant hunting is carefully regulated, though conservationists warn climate change and agricultural intensification threaten future numbers.

Still, pheasants remain a classic sight in the countryside. Their bold colors and brash behavior make them a quintessential part of rural character. So keep an eye out for those flashy green heads and sweeping tails! You may spot one scurrying across a field edge or hear the rattling cackle of a hidden brood.


You’d see robins’ red breasts as a signal of fitness while their cheerfully melodic song brightens your day. Known for their reddish-orange breast, robins are plump songbirds and a familiar sight with a beautiful voice.

Behavior Habitat Diet
Socially territorial Forest edges, parks, gardens Insects, fruits, seeds
Nest on ground or in bushes Backyards and hedgerows Earthworms, spiders
Annual migration Urban and rural areas Berries in winter

A close look at robins reveals gray heads, white eye rings, and brown upperparts. These accomplished singers are active during the day, foraging on lawns and under bushes for worms. Their warbling song fills spring and summer as they defend nesting areas. Though feisty, robins thrive near humans and add cheer wherever they go.


Your throat would flash red as you skim the surface of waterways this summer. Rushing headlong through the skies, you beat your wings nonstop to reach your northern breeding grounds. Driven by an ancient urge, you fly thousands of miles to nest and raise a new generation.

Though most think of your forked tail streaming behind you in flight, your ruby throat glimmers whenever you descend to drink or snatch insects from the air. This flash of color startles prey and helps attract a mate once you reach your summer home.

Building a cup of mud and grasses under eaves or bridges, you chatter excitedly as you gather twigs and feathers to line the nest. Your feeding behavior reflects your aerial agility, snapping up aerial plankton and insects in acrobatic swoops.

Though your numbers dipped from pesticides, conservation efforts help protect wetlands and reduce toxins so your populations can recover.

Your return each spring reminds us that even the smallest can travel great distances and overcome daunting odds to continue an endless cycle.

Less Common Birds With Red Heads in the UK

Less Common Birds With Red Heads in the UK
Hello there! Among the more uncommon red-headed birds in the UK are a handful of eye-catching species you won’t spot every day. Look for the elegant crane with its red crown, the colorful waxwings visiting in winter, the brightly-plumed little grebes on ponds, and the striking male red-crested pochards among ordinary flocks of ducks.

The Eurasian cranes stand out with their long legs, elegant posture, and brilliant crimson caps when they visit marshy areas. Flocks of Bohemian waxwings descend from Scandinavia when berries are scarce farther north, recognizable by the red tips on their secondary wing feathers.

On lakes and ponds, great crested grebes in breeding plumage sport neat ruffs of golden feathers on their heads. And among gathered waterfowl, the males’ puffy crimson heads make red-crested pochards unmistakable.

While not seen daily, these dashing redheads add a splash of color to the UK’s avian landscape.

Common Redpoll

You can glimpse the tiny Common Redpoll with its crimson crown darting between birch branches as you hike through the wintry woods.

  • Forages low in trees and shrubs
  • Feeds on birch and alder seeds
  • Gregarious in winter flocks
  • Makes irruptive winter movements
  • Named for its red forehead patch

The Common Redpoll is a lively little finch that brings a flash of color to snowy northern forests. Seeing a flock descend on a birch tree, their red crowns bobbing, is a special winter birding moment.


Lanuginous Cranes’ flamboyant capes gracefully belie the sad fact they are endangered in the UK. Their red heads and long black legs cut regal silhouettes across wetlands. Foraging with probing beaks, they snap up insects, frogs, seeds.

Though mainland Eurasia nurtures thriving flocks, you rarely glimpse these cautious giants here anymore.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

Look here – a Lesser Spotted Woodpecker’s fiery red cap catches your eye as it clings to a tree trunk! This feisty, scarce woodpecker drums away in UK woodlands, displaying a scarlet crown to attract a mate, its prized signal of genetic fitness.

Through conservation efforts protecting older trees with deep cavities, the dwindling UK woodpecker population may rebound. The bright colors so crucial in the birds’ mating rituals rely on carotenoid-rich diets, underscoring the woodpecker’s link to its habitat.

While watching, delight in the dynamic flash of red, igniting a sparkling curiosity about sustaining vital ecosystems.

Little Grebe

There’s the tiny Little Grebe paddling around the pond, its red head popping out of the water as it dives for fish.

  • Feeds mainly on small fish and insects
  • Found in still, nutrient-rich freshwater habitats
  • Vulnerable to cold winters and habitat loss

The Little Grebe is a small waterbird with a dumpier body and shorter neck than ducks or geese have.


You’d spot the male Pochard’s chestnut red head bobbing on the water as this diving duck feeds. Prized by hunters, these birds are shy. Pochards inhabit freshwater marshes and ponds, diving to find aquatic plants and invertebrates.

In winter they gather in large flocks. Pochards migrate south in cold months. Their conservation status is near-threatened; widespread wetland drainage and hunting impact numbers. Efforts promoting wetland preservation help protect habitat and food sources for this duck.

Red-Necked Grebe

You’ll see the Red-necked Grebe’s gray cheeks and red neck during breeding season as it dives for fish in lakes and estuaries across the UK. Surfacing with small fish, this excellent diver swallows prey underwater before resuming its hunt.

Inhabiting large bodies of water with abundant food supplies, conservation efforts protect its wetland ecosystems from development. With declining numbers, monitoring programs aid the elegant bird’s recovery through habitat restoration and reduced disturbance.

Red-Crested Pochard

Spot a colorful red-crested pochard among the ducks if you visit the right wetlands. Although uncommon, these exotic ducks do breed in the UK. Males have a striking chestnut head and gleaming vermilion bill, while females are more cryptically patterned in brown.

Both dive to forage on aquatic plants. This introduced species competes for habitat with native waterfowl. Conservationists aim to protect wetland ecosystems that sustain diverse wildlife.


Catch sight of a waxwing’s crest and wings marked by bright red drops during winter. Flitting from tree to tree, the waxwings forage for berries. With peaked heads, gray plumage, and black masks, these dapper winter visitors sport tiny crimson, teardrop-shaped wing decorations.

Traveling in nomadic groups, the waxwings follow fruiting plants. Help conserve the waxwings by planting berry-producing shrubs.

What is the Most Common Bird With a Red Head?

What is the Most Common Bird With a Red Head
You can easily spot the robin’s bright red breast in backyards year-round. With over half a million pairs across the UK, the European robin is by far the most common red-headed bird. Though small, robins are fiercely territorial and will defend winter feeding sites against much larger birds.

Here are some key facts about these charming songbirds:

  • Robins have a distinctive red face, throat, breast and belly contrasting with their brown back and tail.
  • They feed on insects, worms, fruit and seeds both on the ground and in trees and shrubs.
  • Robins are found across most of Europe and parts of North Africa and Asia but the UK subspecies is unique.
  • The robin’s breast feathers were once believed to be stained red from caring for humans in distress.

Widespread and easily recognized, the robin remains one of Britain’s best-loved garden visitors. Their confiding nature and flashes of color remind us winter days don’t last long.


From the 260+ bird species in the UK, there’re many red-headed birds to observe, with some more common than others. With most red-headed birds located in South England, it isn’t surprising that the Goldfinch is the most common of these species – it’s also the most widespread species in the UK.

Other red-headed birds in the UK include the Great Spotted Woodpecker, European Green Woodpecker, Lesser Redpoll, Linnet, Pheasant, Robin, and Swallows. There’re also less common species such as the Common Redpoll, Crane, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Little Grebe, Pochard, Red-Necked Grebe, Red-Crested Pochard, and Bohemian Waxwing.

Whether you’re a bird enthusiast or just a curious observer, you’re sure to enjoy seeing these beautiful birds with their unique red heads.

Avatar for Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh

Mutasim Sweileh is a passionate bird enthusiast and author with a deep love for avian creatures. With years of experience studying and observing birds in their natural habitats, Mutasim has developed a profound understanding of their behavior, habitats, and conservation. Through his writings, Mutasim aims to inspire others to appreciate and protect the beautiful world of birds.