All About the Red Kite (Milvus Milvus)

How Long Do Garden Birds Live?

August 1, 2022
bird carrying seeds from a nest box answering why are birds important
the face of a red kite bird

How long do garden birds live? It’s actually quite a complex answer! Some of our beloved garden birds only survive for a year or two, while others can make it to 4 years and beyond. Despite this, most garden birds live between 2 and 5 years on average. Yet, there are always exceptions!

So, whether you’re searching for the answer to ‘how long does a sparrow live’ or ‘how long does a finch live’, we’ve looked at the U.K.’s common garden birds and their lifespans to answer your birds’ life expectancy questions. Here’s how long some of our most loved garden birds live and how accurate these estimations can be.

Can We Actually Answer, ‘How Long Do Garden Birds Live?’

how long do garden birds live?

Unfortunately, giving a garden bird an exact age is easier said than done. It’s challenging to keep track of wild birds, and even if we manage to track them, it’s near impossible to know when each bird begins or ends its life.

Secondly, birds don’t age as we do. Although there may be differences between juveniles and adults, birds show no signs of ageing once they’ve hit maturity. Due to their lack of physical ageing signs and constant movement, it is tricky to answer precisely ‘how long do birds live’.

However, it’s not impossible! Experts have provided the average lifespans of many common garden birds with dedicated tracking, ringing and observation processes. Through this research, we now know several features that define a bird’s lifespan. For example, larger birds are more likely to live longer than smaller birds. In addition, those that nest on the ground are less likely to outlive birds that nest in trees or bushes.

With this in mind, let’s find out just how long garden birds live.

How Long Do Garden Birds Live?

a carrion crow can live for up to 4 years

Although there may not always be a definitive answer to the age of garden birds, experts have determined the average life span of our common garden visitors. Although garden birds can live for several years, their average lifespan is much less than that, with many garden birds only living between 1 – 3 years. In fact, only one in four robins reach their first birthday[i], making them one of our shortest living garden birds. Take a look at the average lifespan of more of our common garden birds.

Alongside the answer to ‘how long do garden birds live’, we’ve looked at their maximum age from ringing. Experts ring wild birds to help them identify the birds, thus allowing them to track the bird and regularly assess their condition. The maximum age from ringing shows the longest recorded period that these birds have survived in the wild.  

Bird Average Lifespan Maximum Age From Ringing Breeding Age
Blackbird 3 years 21 years & 10 months 1 year
Blue Tit 3 years 10 years, 3 months & 10 days 1 year
Bullfinch 2 years 9 years, 2 months & 9 days 1 year
Carrion Crow 4 years 20 years, 10 months & 7 days 2 years
Chaffinch 3 years 15 years & 6 months 1 year
Collared Dove 3 years 13 years, 11 months & 26 days 1 year
Dunnock 2 years 10 years, 7 months & 23 days 1 year
Goldfinch 2 years 5 years & 8 months 1 year
Great Spotted Woodpecker Unknown 11 years, 10 months & 21 days Unknown
Great Tit 5 years 10 years, 5 months & 18 days 1 year
Greenfinch 2 years 11 years, 3 months & 24 days 1 year
House Martin 2 years 7 years, 1 month & 12 days 1 year
House Sparrow 3 years 12 years, 8 months & 27 days 1 year
Jay 4 years 16 years, 9 months & 19 days 2 years
Lapwing 5 years 21 years, 1 month & 15 days 2 years
Linnet 3 years 8 years, 3 months & 25 days 1 year
Long-tailed Tit 2 years 8 years & 11 months 1 year
Magpie 3 years 21 years, 8 months & 23 days 2 years
Mallard 5 – 10 years 20 years, 5 months & 17 days 6 months
Mistle Thrush 3 years 11 years, 4 months & 9 days 1 year
Robin 2 years 8 years, 4 months & 30 days 1 year
Siskin 2 years 8 years, 6 months & 10 days 1 year
Song Thrush 3 years 11 years & 8 days 1 year
Starling 2 – 3 years 17 years, 7 months & 25 days 2 years
Wood Pigeon 3 years 17 years & 9 months 1 year
Wren 2 years 7 years, 3 months & 6 days 1 year

 How To Identify Older Birds

a pair of old collared doves

Of course, there are always exceptions to the average lifespan. For example, the oldest wild robin was noted as living for 11 years and 5 months[ii] – that’s a lot more than one birthday! And, if you’re wondering how old the birds in your garden are, you may be able to have an accurate guess.  

Although determining the exact age of a garden bird can be difficult, there are a few things you should look out for when considering the lifespan of garden birds you spot.

  • Body Size – Usually, larger birds will live longer than their smaller relatives.
  • Clutch Size – Birds with longer lifespans will often have smaller clutch sizes since they have more chances of reproduction. Birds with a shorter lifespan tend to have more eggs.
  • Maturity Age – Shorter-lived birds usually reach adulthood and start breeding quicker than longer-lived birds.
  • Nesting Habits – Many ground-nesting bird species have evolved for shorter lifespans than those that nest high up since they are more open to predators. On the other hand, birds that live or nest on islands are known to live even longer.

How You Can Help Garden Birds Live Longer

a garden bird in a tree

Unfortunately, the life span of garden birds can be cut unnaturally short. Our garden birds fall prey to predators, lack of food, lack of safe places to shelter and nest, and many other unforeseeable circumstances. However, you can reduce the chances of any birds visiting your garden meeting with unfortunate ends with some helpful tweaks to your property.  

Of course, you can’t stop nature from taking its course, but optimising your garden for any feathered visitors can only help them. You may even be able to witness an answer to ‘how long do garden birds live’ with your own eyes! Here are a few tips to make your garden a safe haven for birds and help them live longer.

Leave Out Energy-Rich Foods

High-energy food, like suetsunflower hearts and peanuts for birds, are perfect for leaving in your garden. These fatty foods will give birds plenty of energy and protein, keeping them alert and strong enough to survive.   

Plant Native Plants

Habitat loss and the expansion of urban areas have had a detrimental effect on native birds. Help reverse the effect by planting plenty of native plants and supporting your local ecosystem. Birds will flock to native plants for shelter and food and will want to keep coming back.  

Hang Appropriate Nesting Boxes

a young blue tit in a nest box

Many cavity-nesting birds struggle to find appropriate places to nest due to habitat loss. Hanging nesting boxes suitable for several different species of birds can encourage them to start a family in your garden. Plus, you’ll get to see the next generation of our garden birds!

Stop Birds Flying Into Windows

Believe it or not, the largest cause of bird deaths is windows. Birds are prone to flying into windows as the reflection makes them believe there is more green space beyond it. Over 33 million birds die from flying into windows yearly [iii], so reduce the chances of this happening in your garden with window sticker alerts. They reflect UV light that glows brightly for birds, reducing their chances of flying into glass windows.

Protect Your Garden From Predators

The second biggest killer of birds is cats, with 27 million birds falling prey to felines every year[iv]. But, of course, there are several other bird predators that you should be wary of, too, including badgers, squirrels and sparrowhawks. Protect visiting birds from predators by blocking off potential entryways to your garden, giving birds plenty of natural cover and safeguarding any feeders and bird baths.

Reduce Your Light Pollution

Light pollution has affected many aspects of our garden birds’ lives, including their natural mating and nesting patterns and the ability to navigate through urban landscapes. Try switching any outdoor lights to low-energy, white light LED bulbs or installing timers, motion sensors or dimmers to control the amount of light pollution you emit.

Find out more ways to encourage birds into your garden

‘How Long Do Garden Birds Live?’

We hope we’ve given you a satisfying answer to ‘how long do garden birds live?’ Accurately giving an age to birds can be tricky, but knowing their average lifespans and key identifying features can help you estimate just how old your common garden visitors are.

What birds do you think are living the longest in your garden? Let us know.

Sources

  [i] https://www.garden-birds.co.uk/information/life_expectancy.html

[ii] https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/wildlife-guides/bird-a-z/robin/threats/

[iii] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-22395664 

[iv] https://www.rspb.org.uk/birds-and-wildlife/advice/gardening-for-wildlife/animal-deterrents/cats-and-garden-birds/are-cats-causing-bird-declines/

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1 comment

  1. Hi Gemma, I have a lovely blue tit which sleeps in my outside light every night where it is totally safe from predators. There have been a few occasions where he/she hasn’t come ‘home’ which has made me anxious as he’s been around for so long, he’s like a pet. We have named him Batchelor Boy and have gladly had him return for approximately the past 7 years.
    I don’t like to put food near his home in case other birds scare him off. Any advice would be welcome.
    Trudy