Bird watching is one of the most popular hobbies with over 2.85 to 3 million people in the UK enjoying it every year. Ideally, there’s no such a thing as a “bad time to go bird watching”. However, there are some times that are much more suitable than others, as it’s a major factor to raise your chances to watch a bird! So what is the best time of day for bird watching in the UK?
The exact time where a bird is going to be more active will depend mainly on the species of the bird you’re after. However, as a rule of thumb, most birds would be generally more active at the transitional times of the day and depending on whether the bird is diurnal or nocturnal.
If you want to know more about the ideal times to watch a bird in the day as well as other valuable information and tips regarding this topic, keep on reading!
What Is the Best Time of Day for Bird Watching in the UK?
As previously mentioned, birds are around all the time. However, if you want to make the most out of the time on your binoculars, you might want to keep the timing in check.
Let’s have a brief overview of the ideal timing of the day enjoy bird watching:
Early in the Morning (Dawn)
If you’re a beginner at bird watching, you’ll probably have the best chances of spotting birds and enjoying their company during the early morning of the day. This is the best time of day for bird watching in the UK.
This is because a lot of birds would be most active during this time of the day as they’re going on with their daily errands. Similar to the old saying “the early bird catches the worm”, an early birder would also catch the bird.
Top Tip: The more early you’re in the morning, the better your chances of having a lot of birds to enjoy watching. This means that dawn hours and the first crack of light are ideally the optimum times for the job.
In that time, there will be plenty of light for you to see the birds easily. Also, there are generally fewer people around in gardens and parks during that time, so you’ll get the advantage of enjoying the birds in their natural habitat.
Keep in mind that since a lot of expect birders and avid bird watchers know of that time, you’ll probably be accompanied by some of them.
But don’t worry, they’re usually experts at not disturbing the birds, so they won’t affect your experience!
Early in the Evening (Dusk)
Another great time to get plenty of bird action is also by being there early. However, this time, it should be early in the evening. This is a closed second for the best time of day for bird watching in the UK.
What makes this time special is that a major variety of birds would be available during that time. For instance, diurnal birds will still be awake and ready for one final meal before they go to sleep.
Also, it’s the time where nocturnal birds start to show up because the dim light setting is just perfect for them to start looking for food. Moreover, there are some birds that are notorious for only showing up in patterns, including ones in the early evening.
This kind of time is great for a bird watcher who doesn’t happen to be an early riser, or simply not a morning person.
Of course, the lower light will make it more difficult to see birds clearly and take photographs of them.
However, you’ll enjoy watching a huge variety of bird species as well as beautiful silhouettes for amazing pictures.
For all these reasons, dusk and early evening are also considered some of the best times for bird watching.
What About Other Times of the Day?
The time between the two best times for a birder to go bird watching isn’t necessarily bad. However, as the day progresses and birds successfully find food, things will start to be slow for a little bit as birds become less active.
During the peak of that time at midday, the sun heats up the air layers, which makes columns of warm air rise up and cold air falls down.
This allows birds, and especially birds of prey, to soar up in the sky easily. It’s also the clearest time of the day with maximum visibility of the ground.
As for the evening and nighttime, it’s not necessarily a bad time for birding if you’re mainly interested in nocturnal birds.
Author Note: If you’re into owls, the nighttime is where some owls make their glorious appearance. There are also some non-bird flying species, such as bats, which some bird watchers are also interested in observing.
The main problems with night bird watching are that there’s an obvious lack in numbers of birds available and visibility is always a challenge.
Species Plays a Huge Role
As you could notice, the species of the birds in question is a major factor that has a huge impact on the ideal time for bird watching.
In other words, dawn and dusk are considered the best time of the day for bird watching if you are interested in watching as many bird species and numbers as possible.
But, if you’re only interested in a specific species or a group of birds, the nature of their species will have a major impact on the time of the day where bird watching would be worthwhile.
Ideally, if you’re mainly interested in watching lovely songbirds, you should always be in the garden during the early morning, especially at dawn.
This allows you to watch songbird species, including Dunnock, Woodlark, House Finch, Goldfinch, Turtle Dove, Willow warbler, Cardinals, Robins, and more!
On the other hand, if you’re more interested in observing birds of prey while they’re on the hunt for other birds and small mammals.
Early morning isn’t the ideal time for you. Instead, you should consider midday, for the reasons mentioned above.
This time is usually ideal if you’re mainly interested in watching raptors, such as eagles, buzzards, falcons, hawks, harriers, and kites.
For nocturnal birds, the dusk times to late in the evening are more suitable times of the day. During that time, you will enjoy observing birds like Tawny Owls, Nightjars, Common Nightingales, Woodcocks, and Eurasian Curlew.
What Is the Worst Time of the Day for Bird Watching?
As you’ve noticed, birds of different species would be available around the clock. While many people consider late in the morning to afternoon the worst time for bird watching, a true birder who’s interested in watching a bird’s life whether they’re active or asleep may disagree.
Author Note: After getting enough time around birds when they’re active, exploring their world during the after time without disturbing them has its own joy!
What Makes a Bird More Active During a Specific Time Period?
There are plenty of reasons why birds would be active during a specific time and less active in the other, here’s a brief overview of these factors:
Searching for Food
They say “the early bird gets the worm” for a reason! As the sun starts to rise, insects and worms start to warm up and become active, which attracts birds for foraging, as most of these birds are insectivores.
To stay hydrated birds will regularly fly around bird feeders and ponds for drinking at the same time they’re eating.
Some birds need to expose their bodies to sunlight for feather maintenance. These birds usually fluff up their feathers for maximum exposure to the sun, such as Blackbirds and Robins.
Predators Are Asleep
As previously mentioned, most predators are usually more active and easily for predators to fly and hunt prey during midday, so it’s safer for other birds to be as early as possible.
Singing and Looking for Mates
Singing is mainly a way of communication between birds. They use singing as a method of attracting mates as well as establishing territories.
Early singing is ideal because it’s the least noise-polluted time during the day, which is also a win-win for bird watchers who are birding by ear.
What Do Birds Do in Other Times of the Day?
When birds aren’t around, they’re usually in their nests. Every bird species here is different, but most of them are either perching, nesting, sleeping, mating, or avoid predator activity hours.
Valuable Tips to Keep in Mind While Bird Watching Throughout the Day
Here are some additional tips to make the most out of your bird watching time:
- Keep track of the climate and geography, as they can affect the activity time of some birds
- Some bird species appear sporadically throughout the day and change their spot frequently, so you should check with local birders reporting sites to find out the whereabouts of the bird
- Always research the species that you’re on the lookout for and study their ideal activity time of the day separately
- If you’re serious about birding and bird watching, consider investing in a bird hide to stay out of sight and not disturb the birds while watching them.
There you have it! A complete guide that shows you the best time of the day for bird watching in the UK.
As you can see, the early morning is recognized everywhere around the world as the ideal time to look up and enjoy the sight of birds!
Fly high friends
You can look online on eBird and search for birds recently seen in your area. There is also the RSPB – Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which will have lots of tips about bird watching in general or look up nature and bird reserves like Slimbridge which are excellent places to see and photography a range of birds.
Avid bird watchers are called Twitchers in the U.K. and they take it very seriously. People will travel from one side of the country to another if a rare bird has been seen.
For over 40 years the RSPB has been running a citizen science project in the U.K. that encourages people to record the birds they have seen in their garden during an hour on a specific date.