These are an order of birds that includes more than half the species in the world. Basically they’re the littler birds towards the end of most field guides – the birds that perch and sing and visit feeding stations. They split into two basic tribes, one of which likes to forage on the ground. This includes robins and blackbirds.
No-one should have any trouble with robins. If you can’t see them, you should certainly hear them. They depart from most birds’ behaviour by singing year round and with the female being as adept a singer as the male. She tones it down somewhat in the spring when it is still the bloke’s responsibility to advertise the goods.
The female blackbird is really the only likely identification problem. She’s brown. And some have so speckled a breast that they approach the look of a song thrush. This too is widespread but not so common and certainly more retiring, until it starts singing. A few species are what you might describe as manic in this department and the song thrush is one of them.
Aerial foragers include the blue tit, which with its black eye-stripe looks like a little bandit. It almost inevitably associates with the larger great tit, clad in glossy cap and bib contrasting with white cheeks. Its vocal repertoire allegedly numbers 57 calls – as many varieties as Heinz, which sounds just a little too coincidental. It’s a lot anyway, enough that great tits are probably the source of any unidentified noise in a patch of British woodland.
Not related despite its name, the long-tailed tit buzzes through town in noisy parties that look like groups of flying tadpoles. They complete the roster of the most common and widespread passerines in Portishead.