The Joy of LBJs


Sometimes it is very important to find the joy in little things, looking for wonder in the ordinary. This has certainly become very apparent during our multiple lockdowns in the UK. Some people find solace in baking or running but for me, as a birder, I’ve been focussing on something a little bit different: LBJs


This little acronym stands for Little Brown Jobs and is a term used by birders to classify any bird that shares these traits and might be too fast or fleeting to identify immediately. To give an example, I was hiking recently with a friend and a bird shot in front of our eyes and there was no way of knowing what it was. We both acknowledged it as an LBJ until we could get a bit closer. It turned out to be a corn bunting, a definite member of the LBJ family. So below, I thought I’d list some of the best birds to keep an eye out for, as we head into Spring. See if you can share in the joy of these birds which, at first glance, seem fairly humdrum. If you look a little closer, you’ll see that this is far from the truth.


1. House Sparrow (Passer domesticus)

This little beauty has unfortunately seen a decline in recent years, according to the Wildlife Trusts. But, there are hints of a resurgence. Luckily, we still have lots of breeding pairs in the UK, but we mustn’t rest on our laurels. The great work of groups such as Save the House Sparrows and Songbird Survival, are ensuring that iconic species, such as the house sparrow, are protected. As for what you can do, at this time of year leaving out the favourite foods of house sparrows will be a big help. Take a look at my piece on How to Attract Birds to Your Garden to see exactly what that is.


2. Wren (Troglodytes troglodytes)

These may be one of the smallest birds in the UK but, despite their diminutive size, wrens are full of personality. Countrylife have a great factfile on wrens, worth checking out. It has to be said that wrens are very nice looking birds, but their real allure comes from their precocious nature. They are loud and proud members of the LBJ group and they can be seen bobbing and weaving through hedgerows and trees. Definitely keep an eye out for them because it’s often the case that if you blink you miss them.


3. Meadow Pipit (Anthus pratensis)

The meadow pipit isn’t too well known in the UK, but is definitely a little beauty. It’s a breeding resident widespread on upland moors but also on the coast particularly during migration and over-wintering. It is an olive brown looking bird with pale orange legs often with a clump of streaks in the middle of the chest. Head over the RSPB’s profile and learn more about this lesser known LBJ.


4. Reed Bunting (Emberiza schoeniclus)

If you are lucky enough to live near a body of water, you’ll probably notice the reeds lining the edges of it. Keep an eye on these spots and you may catch sight of one of my favourite LBJs: the common reed bunting. They look similar to the house or tree sparrow but have some subtle differences. Although it shares the same colouration, the reed bunting has a much more mottled look and lacks the black cap of a sparrow. There is almost a tie-dye feel to their beautiful brown, black and tan wings. The BBC’s Discover Wildlife has some lovely photos, so get studying and ensure you know the difference between your buntings and your sparrows.


I have written a couple of times about the best ways to help all of these species; all passerines and all songbirds. In one piece, Top 5 Garden Birds of the UK, you can gain a great idea of what species to keep an eye out for. Whereas, there is more practical advice in my Songbirds of the UK, outlining the best types of foods, habitats and environments that can help our LBJs. One very easy way to make an impact is to create greater awareness of the fragility of UK songbirds. Follow all the groups in this post, across social media channels, and ensure you share their message far and wide.


(All credits go to Agrivulture.)



Thanks for reading!