The function of avian ultraviolet (UV) vision is only just beginning to be understood. One plausible hypothesis is that UV vision enhances the foraging ability of birds. To test this, we carried out behavioural experiments using wild–caught blue tits foraging for cabbage moth and winter moth caterpillars on natural and artificial backgrounds. The light environment in our experiments was manipulated using either UV–blocking or UV–transmitting filters. We found that the blue tits tended to find the first prey item (out of four) more quickly when UV cues were present. This suggests that UV vision offers benefits to birds when searching for cryptic prey, despite the prey and backgrounds reflecting relatively little UV. Although there was no direct effect of UV on the time taken to find all four prey items in a trial, search performance in the absence of UV wavelengths tended to increase over the course of an experiment. This may reflect changes in the search tactics of the birds. To our knowledge, these are the first data to suggest that birds use UV cues to detect cryptic insect prey, and have implications for our understanding of protective coloration.