Walk through Culbin forest and at first you might believe no birds live here at all.  You’ll not always spot anything near ground level, although you may be lucky and see a mistle-thrush, dunnock, redpoll or bullfinch there.  The trick is to let your eyes follow your ears, and look upwards into the tops of the pines – the canopy – from which you’ll often hear high-pitched birdsong trilling down.

Compared with the coastal birds, which are bigger built and brighter, woodland birds are often small and camouflage-coloured, designed to remain unseen.   A pair of binoculars is invaluable for spotting these tiny, agile residents as they flit from branch to branch.

Nests on high

The canopy is the safest place for the smallest woodland birds to live. Some make nests here too, sometimes lined with lichens, mosses and feathers, often (like those of crested tits and treecreepers) in crevices in the rotten wood or the bark of trees.  Food can also be found up here: some beetles and aphids live in the tree-tops too.

A speedy predator

Sparrowhawks are at the top of the forest bird food chain.  This silent killer hunts on the wing, dashing between the trees and striking down its prey – smaller forest birds - in an attack from nowhere.  It too will construct a nest in the tops of the forest conifers.

Food from the forest

Small forest birds find a nutritious assortment of insects on the forest floor, in tree bark or in rotting wood, while larger species such as the mistle-thrush will look for snails, worms and grubs in more open areas of grassland.  Some birds such as the crested tit have evolved especially fine beaks to help them survive on a diet of forest insects and small pine-cone seeds.

The bullfinch and redpoll also eat mainly seeds and berries, with an occasional insect for variety.

Take a look at The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) website for more information on all of the species mentioned above.

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