Birds

British Seabirds are an iconic piece of the Great British Coastline, with some species seen all year round. In contrast, others are migratory and visit only during the spring, breed during the summer, and leave for warmer climates in the autumn.
The British Coastline is a vital breeding habitat for Seabirds, supporting species that migrate from as far away as South America and Africa. In addition, the British Coastline has a range of geographical features ideal for supporting numerous bird colonies, including rocky cliffsides and sand dunes on smaller islands.

 

Divers

Black throated diver

A large aquatic bird characterised by a black throat, a grey head and neck, and a black and white back. In the winter, its plumage turns much paler. It averages 66 cm in length, with a 1.2 m wingspan and a dagger-like bill.

Gavia-artica

 

Latin NameGavia arctica
DietBlack throated divers feed mainly on fish, molluscs and crustaceans.
Best time to seeDecember to February
DistributionFound in northern Scotland during summer, but present around much of the UK coastline during winter.
HabitatBlack throated divers prefer sheltered inshore waters, although they often move to lochs and inland reservoirs to breed.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factDiving to depths of up to 6 metres, these birds have an 80% success rate when it comes to finding food.

 

Red throated diver

Gavia stellata Red throated diver

Latin NameGavia stellata
DietPrimarily a fish-eater, although molluscs and crustaceans may also be taken.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionFound throughout the UK coastline during winter, with populations breeding in north-west Scotland during summer.
HabitatRed throated divers are mostly seen in inshore coastal waters, but prefer to breed on small pools and lochs.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor
Interesting factIn late summer, red throated divers undergo a complete wing moult, where they lose all their flight feathers at once and become unable to fly for several weeks.

 

Grebes

Little grebe

True to its name, the little grebe is the smallest member of the grebe family, measuring 27 cm in length, with a wingspan of 42 cm. Its plumage is dark brown, but rufous-coloured patches appear around its cheeks and neck during summer

Tachybaptus ruficollis

Latin NameTachybaptus ruficollis
DietMainly fish and aquatic invertebrates.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionFound in lowland areas throughout the UK.
HabitatLittle grebes live in slow-moving waterways, ponds and lakes, usually where there is lush vegetation.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factFor such a small bird, the little grebe can be surprisingly loud, producing a distinctive trill that is similar to a horse whinnying.

 

 

Great crested grebe

Great crested grebes measure around 47 cm in length, with an 88 cm wingspan. This makes them the largest member of the grebe family. They can be identified by their white necks and dark backs, or by the large, colourful plumes that appear on their heads during the breeding season.

Great crested grebes Podiceps-cristatus

Latin NamePodiceps cristatus
DietFish is their preferred food, but they will also feed on crustaceans and small amphibians.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionFound mostly in southern Britain, in lowland regions. Further north, they appear more often during winter.
HabitatGreat crested grebes are commonly seen along the coast, but can also be found on lakes, reservoirs and rivers.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factThese birds are well-known for their elaborate courtship dances, where breeding pairs engage in synchronised performances on the water to maintain their bonds.

Gannets

Northern gannet

The northern gannet is a large white seabird with a yellow head and prominent black wingtips. They average 90 cm in length, with a wingspan of 2 m. Their sharp beaks are large and tinged with blue.

Northern gannet

Latin NameMorus bassanus
DietMainly fish, although squid may be taken opportunistically.
Best time to seeApril to August.
DistributionFound right around the UK coast, although nesting is more common in northerly regions.
HabitatCoastal cliffs and offshore rocks are preferred as nesting sites. While fishing, northern gannets tend to stick close to the shore, occasionally moving further out.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer migrant.
Interesting factNorthern gannets dive head-first into the water on the hunt for fish, sometimes hitting the water at over 60 mph.

 

Auks

Common guillemot

Common guillemots have dark brown backs and white underbellies, with relatively long bills. Their average length is 40 cm and they have a wingspan of 67 cm.

Uria-aalge Common guillemot

Latin NameUria aalge
DietPrimarily small fish such as sandeels, supplemented by molluscs and squid.
Best time to seeMarch to July.
DistributionMost common in Scotland and Northern England, where breeding occurs in summer. In winter, common guillemots can be seen offshore around much of the British coast.
HabitatNesting usually occurs on high sea cliffs and rocky islands.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and summer visitor.
Interesting fact Common guillemot colonies are known as ‘loomeries’ and are renowned for their high nest densities, where as many as 40 birds will share just one square metre of cliff.

 

Black guillemot

Black guillemots change appearance in relation to the season, with their summer plumage being black with white wing patches and their winter plumage being a mixture of white, grey and black. They average 31 cm in length, with 55 cm wingspans.

Cepphus-grylle

Latin NameCepphus grylle
DietSmall fish and molluscs.
Best time to seeMay to August.
DistributionFound on coasts in north-west Britain, particularly Scotland and Northern Ireland.
HabitatNests on cliffs and rocky islands, but can often be seen fishing in inshore waters.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factBlack guillemots will defend their nests aggressively, sometimes lunging at intruders with backs hunched and bills open.

Razorbill

The razorbill is a medium-sized bird with a chunky, black bill. Its plumage is black on top and white below, and it measures around 40 cm in length, with a 66 cm wingspan. In winter, their faces turn white.

Razorbills Alca-torda

Latin NameAlca torda
DietSmall fish such as sandeels and sprat.
Best time to seeBest time to see: March to July.
DistributionRazorbills are found right around the UK coast, though they usually spend the winter in offshore waters. Breeding happens at established seabird colonies during summer.
HabitatFishing occurs in inshore waters, with nests being constructed on coastal cliffs.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and summer visitor.
Interesting factRazorbill chicks fledge by taking a leap of faith from their clifftop nests into the water below. They almost always do this after sunset.

Atlantic puffin

An unmistakeable bird, the Atlantic puffin has black and white plumage and a large, multicoloured beak. They are relatively small, averaging 27 cm in length, with 55 cm wingspans.

Fratercula-artica Atlantic puffin

Latin NameFratercula arctica
DietSmall fish, particularly sandeels.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionPuffins are found in scattered locations, primarily in eastern Scotland and England. They are also visitors to western coasts during summer.
HabitatNests on cliffs and remote islands.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and summer visitor.
Interesting factDue to their comical appearance, Atlantic puffins are often known as ‘sea parrots’ or ‘the clowns of the ocean’.

 

Cormorants

Great cormorant

Great cormorants are large, black birds with long necks. In the breeding season, adults develop white patches above their thighs. They measure around 88 cm in length, with 1.5 m wingspans.

Phalacrocorax-carbo Great cormorant

Latin NamePhalacrocorax carbo
DietPrimarily fish.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionCormorants can be seen around the UK coastline.
HabitatRocky shores and estuaries are preferred, although they can also be found on inland lakes and rivers.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factGreat cormorants are adept at fishing, however they need to dry their feathers before being able to fly. For this reason, they will often be seen standing on rocks with their wings spread to the sun.

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European shag

As large birds with long necks, European shags measure around 75 cm in length, with 1 m wingspans. They tend to be slimmer than other cormorant species and have a greenish tinge to their plumage.

European shag

Latin NamePhalacrocorax aristotelis
DietFish and molluscs, occasionally supplemented by crustaceans.
Best time to seeApril to August.
DistributionCan be found anywhere on the UK coastline, being more common in the north-west.
HabitatEuropean shags prefer rocky shores and inlets.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factBeing surprisingly efficient swimmers, European shags can dive down as deep as 45 m below the surface in pursuit of fish.

 

Gulls

Kittiwake

Kittiwakes are medium-sized gulls, averaging about 40 cm in length, with 1.1 m wingspans. They are light grey above and white underneath, with small, yellow bills.

Rissa-tridactyla Kittiwake

Latin NameRissa tridactyla
DietThey mainly feed on fish, although they will also eat shrimp and squid.
Best time to seeMay to August.
DistributionKittiwakes spend the winter out at sea, but they can be found in scattered locations around the coast during summer.
HabitatKittiwakes choose to nest on coastal cliffs, often at large seabird colonies.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and summer visitor.
Interesting factKittiwakes are named after their distinctive “kit-ti-wake” calls, however they are very vocal and make a range of different noises, including high-pitched squeaks.

Black-headed gull

A highly distinctive bird in summer, the black-headed gull has a light body and a dark head, although the head often turns white during the rest of the year. Averaging 37 cm in length, it has a 1 m wingspan.

Black-headed gull

Latin NameChroicocephalus ridibundus
DietThe black-headed gull’s varied diet includes fish, carrion, insects and worms.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionVery widespread, found right around the coast and absent only from upland areas.
HabitatBlack-headed gulls are common on wetland habitats such as saltmarsh and estuaries.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factBlack-headed gull chicks are often predated upon in the nest, so the parents try to disguise the nest by removing the leftover eggshells after the chicks have hatched.

Common gull

Common gulls have white underbellies and black wingtips, with yellow legs and bills. Averaging around 41 cm, they have 1.2 m wingspans.

Larus-canus

Latin NameLarus canus
DietMostly fish and carrion, with worms being eaten on occasion.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionCan be seen right around the UK coastline, being found year-round in the north and visiting southern England during winter.
HabitatCommon gulls make use of a range of habitats, breeding on coastal marsh, sea cliffs and beaches. They often feed on land fill sites.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factCommon gulls sometimes stamp vigorously on grass to imitate rainfall, encouraging worms and other invertebrates to the surface so that they can be caught.

Lesser black-backed gull

The lesser black-backed gull has dark wings and a white underbelly, with yellowy-orange legs. They measure between 50 – 70 cm in length, with 1.4 m wingspans.

Larus-fuscus

Latin NameLarus fuscus
DietThese birds are omnivorous and feed on fish, insects, small mammals and berries, as well as scavenging carrion.
Best time to seeJune to August
DistributionFound right around the UK coastline in summer, often moving further inland in winter.
HabitatOn the coast, lesser black-backed gulls can be seen in areas of farmland, wetland and beach.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and summer visitor.
Interesting fact40% of the European lesser black-backed gull population can be found in the UK, with the largest individual colony being found on Walney Island in Cumbria.

 

Great black-backed gull

Averaging between 70 and 80 cm, the great black-backed gull is the largest gull in the world, with a 1.5 m wingspan. It can be distinguished from the lesser black-backed gull by having darker plumage.

Great black-backed gull

Latin NameLarus marinus
DietGreat black-backed gulls are opportunistic omnivores but feed mainly on shellfish, carrion and smaller birds.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionCan be seen anywhere on the coast during the summer breeding season, sometimes moving further inland during winter.
HabitatGreat black-backed gulls often congregate around harbours and landfill sites in the colder months, but they are widespread in coastal habitats at other times.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factThese powerful birds often behave more like raptors than gulls, preying on smaller animals and aggressively chasing other sea birds.

European herring gull

Herring gulls have light grey wings and white lower regions, with pink legs. Averaging around 60 cm, they have wingspans of 1.4 m.

Larus-argentatus European herring gull

Latin NameLarus argentatus
DietThey feed on a wide variety of foods, including fish, eggs, young birds, fruit and carrion.
Best time to seeApril to August.
DistributionHerring gulls are widespread on the UK coast but often spend the winter months further inland.
HabitatFarmland, wetland and freshwater areas are all common habitats, along with towns and gardens.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factHerring gulls are intelligent opportunists and have learnt to steal food right out of people’s hands in many seaside towns.

 

Petrels

European storm petrel

European storm petrels are the UK’s smallest seabirds, averaging 16 cm in length, with 38 cm wingspans. They have dark brown bodies, patches of white on their rumps and short tails.

Hydrobates-pelagicus

Latin NameHydrobates pelagicus
DietMainly fish, although crustaceans and plankton will also be eaten.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionBreeds in western parts of the UK during summer, but can be seen elsewhere in spring and autumn.
HabitatIslands and remote coastlines are the only places where the European storm petrel breeds.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer migrant.
Interesting factWhile nesting, European storm petrels produce a strange purring song in the dead of night, almost similar to that of a cat. They are normally silent at sea.

Leach’s storm petrel

Leach’s storm petrel is a bird with dark plumage, a white rump and a forked tail. Is it a small bird, measuring about 20 cm in length, with a wingspan of 46 cm.

Oceanodroma-leucorhoa

Latin NameOceanodroma leucorhea
DietPrimarily plankton, supplemented by small fish and crustaceans.
Best time to seeSeptember to October.
DistributionLeach’s storm petrels appear sporadically around the UK coastline, being seen most often from seawatching points around Liverpool Bay.
HabitatBreeds on remote islands in north-west Scotland during summer, but is strictly an ocean bird at other times of year.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factFor such small birds, Leach’s storm petrels are very long-lived, with the oldest individual reaching an impressive age of 38 years old.

Shearwaters

Northern fulmar

Fulmars look similar to gulls, with white heads, light grey wings and pale underbellies. Despite this, they’re more closely related to albatrosses. They average 47 cm in length, with 1 m wingspans.

Fulmarus-glacialis

Latin NameFulmarus glacialis
DietFish, shrimp and squid make up most of a fulmar’s diet.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionNests around the UK coast in summer, although is most common in Scotland.
HabitatSeabird colonies and high cliffs are the preferred nesting sites for fulmars. Outside of the breeding season, they remain offshore.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factFulmars produce a form of stomach oil which can be sprayed from the mouth when the birds feel threatened. It can clog the plumage of predatory birds, preventing them from flying.

Manx shearwater

Manx shearwaters are black and white birds with very long, straight wings. They are medium-sized, measuring about 35 cm, with an 82 cm wingspan.

Manx shearwater

Latin NamePuffinus puffinus
DietMainly small fish such as sprat and sardines.
Best time to seeMay to July.
DistributionManx shearwaters breed in remote areas, largely in the west of the country. They can be seen elsewhere on the coast during their migration periods.
HabitatBreeding occurs on islands and quiet mainland coasts, where the terrain is good for building burrows.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factManx shearwaters produce unusual midnight shrieks and screams, leading to historic beliefs that they were associated with ghosts or witches.

Skuas

Arctic skua

Arctic skuas come in two colour morphs, with one being black and white and the other being uniformly brown. Both have pointed wings and measure around 44 cm, with 1.2 m wingspans.

Stercorarius-parasiticus Arctic skua

Latin NameStercorarius parasiticus
DietThey feed on small mammals, chicks and eggs in the breeding season, with fish being the primary source of food at other times.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionBreeds only in northern Scotland but can be seen elsewhere on the British coast during spring and autumn migrations.
HabitatArctic skuas nest on islands and remote coastlines, often near seabird colonies.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factThe Arctic skua is also known as the parasitic jaeger, due to its tendency to aggressively attack and steal food from other seabirds.

Great skua

A large bird, the great skua measures about 60 cm in length and has a wingspan of 1.3 m. Its plumage is brown, with darker areas and golden streaks.

Great skua

Latin NameStercorarius skua
DietMainly fish, eggs and other birds. Small mammals may also be caught on occasion.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionGreat skuas nest in remote coastal regions in north-west Scotland. They can be seen elsewhere on the UK coast as they migrate.
HabitatRocky islands and moorland are preferred habitats for breeding. Outside of the breeding season, seabird colonies are common places to find these birds.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factGreat skuas are highly predatory and will often hunt and kill smaller seabirds such as puffins, along with stealing their food. This earns them the nickname “the pirates of the sea”.

Terns

Little tern

A mixture of white and silvery-grey, the little tern has a black cap and a short tail. Measuring 23 cm in length, it has a wingspan of 52 cm.

Sternula albifrons

Latin NameSternula albifrons
DietMainly fish, which is caught during shallow dives.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionLittle terns can be seen around the UK coast, choosing to breed at localised sites.
HabitatNesting occurs on shingle beaches and rocky islands. Inshore waters are preferred areas for feeding.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factLittle terns migrate south for the winter, setting out on incredible journeys to subtropical regions, which can sometimes cover more than 5,000 km.

Sandwich tern

Sandwich terns are pale birds with black caps, which often feature ragged tufts of plumage. Averaging 38 cm in length, they have 1 m wingspans.

Sandwich tern

Latin NameThalasseus sandvicensis
DietMostly small fish such as sprat or sandeels.
Best time to seeMay to August.
DistributionBreeding colonies of sandwich terns occur sporadically on the UK coast, with large examples in north Norfolk and Minsmere. The species can also be seen while migrating, mostly on the south-east coast.
HabitatSandwich terns prefer to nest on sandy beaches and remote islands.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factSandwich terns range far and wide in search of suitable fishing grounds, with some birds travelling as far as 70 km in just one day.

Common tern

Common terns are silvery-grey birds with black caps and orange beaks. They have characteristically long tails. Averaging 33 cm in length, they have wingspans of 88 cm.

Sterna hirundo

Latin NameSterna hirundo
DietMostly fish, but occasionally invertebrates such as worms and molluscs.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionCommon terns breed during summer at locations around the UK coastline. They can also be seen migrating during autumn.
HabitatThis species prefers rocky coastlines, choosing to breed on areas of shingle beach or gravel.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factCommon terns often nest in very large colonies, which can sometimes number up to 20,000 individuals.

Arctic tern

A white bird with a black cap, the Arctic tern measures 34 cm in length, with a wingspan of 80 cm. It has very long tail streamers and a blood-red bill.

Arctic tern

Latin NameSterna paradisaea
DietFish is preferentially taken but is supplemented by crustaceans and insects.
Best time to seeApril to August.
DistributionBreeding occurs largely on northern coastlines, especially on the north-west Scottish islands. The species can be seen right around the UK during its autumn migration.
HabitatArctic terns nest in coastal habitats such as tundra and moorland, often on remote islands.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factArctic terns defend their nests very aggressively from anything they see as a threat. They will attack large predators and even humans, using a combination of dive-bombing and striking.

 

Herons & Egrets

Great Bittern

The great bittern is a large heron with excellent camouflage, its plumage being a mixture of pale brown feathers and dark streaks. Measuring 75 cm in length on average, it has a wingspan of 1.3 m.

Great Bittern

Latin NameBotaurus stellaris
DietFish and amphibians make up most of its diet, although crustaceans will also be taken.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionGreat bitterns are mainly found in England and Wales, both on the coast and inland. Although they can be seen year-round in some locations, most are only obvious during winter.
HabitatThe species usually resides in wetland areas with large reedbeds.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factMale bitterns produce a deep, fog-horn-like boom during the breeding season – a sound which can be heard from over 3 miles away

 

Grey Heron

Grey herons are tall birds with very long necks and plumage which is largely grey in colour. They are very large, measuring about 94 cm in length, with 1.8 m wingspans.

Grey Heron

Latin NameArdea cinerea
DietMainly fish and amphibians, with occasional small mammals.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionGrey herons are present in all parts of the UK, with the exception of mountainous regions.
HabitatThe species can be found anywhere with water, especially rocky coastlines, ponds and rivers.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factGrey herons are one of the first birds of the year to breed in the UK, sometimes laying eggs in early February in southern regions.

Little Egret

The little egret is a small heron with pure white plumage, black legs and yellow feet. During the breeding season, it has long plumes on its head. Averaging 60 cm in length, it has a 92 cm wingspan.

Little Egret

Latin NameEgretta garzetta
DietFish is eaten most often, with amphibians and molluscs being taken on occasion.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionLargely found in southern regions, particularly on the south coast of England. While some stay in the UK year-round, many are winter migrants.
HabitatCoastal wetlands and estuaries are preferred, although the species will sometimes be seen further inland along lakes and rivers.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factThe plume feathers of little egrets were highly prized in the 18th and 19th centuries, so much so that they were more valuable than gold. The hunting of the species for this reason led to huge declines.

 

Swans & Geese

Mute Swan

The mute swan is a large waterbird with white plumage and an orange bill. It also has a very long, S-shaped neck. Measuring 1.5 m in length, it has a 2.2 m wingspan.

Mute Swan

Latin NameCygnus olor
DietMute swans feed mostly on aquatic plants, although they will also eat crops.
Best time to seeApril to August.
DistributionSpread throughout the UK, mute swans breed everywhere other than northern Scotland and upland areas.
HabitatMute swans prefer freshwater habitats and are common in wetland areas, as well as ponds and lakes.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factContrary to popular belief, mute swan’s wings are not powerful enough to break the arms or legs of a person. They do defend their nests aggressively, however, and will chase off intruders by hissing, pecking and wing-flapping.

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Whooper swan

Whooper swans are large birds that measure 1.5 m in length, with wingspans of 2.3 m. They have white plumage and thin necks, with bills that are a mixture of yellow and black.

Whooper swan

Latin NameCygnus cygnus
DietMainly aquatic plants that grow beneath the water, but occasionally grains.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionWhooper swans can be found in lowland regions of Scotland, Northern Ireland and predominantly northern parts of England and Wales.
HabitatWetland and farmland are their preferred habitats, but they are frequently seen on the coast.
Migrant/ResidentWinter visitor.
Interesting factThe term “swan song” – meaning a final gesture or effort before death – may stem from the whooper swan’s tendency to make a series of song-like noises just before it dies.

Brent goose

The brent goose is the smallest goose in the UK, averaging about 57 cm in length, with a wingspan of 1.5 m. It has a black neck and a grey back, with a small white patch on its neck.

Brent goose

Latin NameBranta bernicla
DietFeeds on marine plants such as eelgrass, as well as terrestrial grass and cereal crops.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionVisits coastlines around the UK but is most common in eastern England.
HabitatBrent geese prefer estuaries and saltmarsh, although they will also visit farmland.
Migrant/ResidentWinter visitor.
Interesting factBrent geese possess highly developed salt glands which allow them to drink seawater without suffering any harm.

Canada goose

Canada geese are distinctive birds with black heads, black necks and white throat patches. Their bodies are light brown. Measuring about 95 cm in length on average, they have 1.6 m wingspans.

Branta-canadensis

Latin NameBranta canadensis
DietMainly herbivorous, they feed on grasses, grains and aquatic algae.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionWidespread in southern regions of the UK, being less common in Scotland and Northern Ireland.
HabitatCanada geese are found mainly in freshwater habitats such as wetland, as well as farmland near the coast.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder (introduced).
Interesting factNative to North America, Canada geese were first introduced to the UK in the 17th century. They have successfully spread throughout much of the country and are now sometimes considered a pest.

 

Barnacle goose

The barnacle goose is a medium-sized goose that averages 63 cm in length, with a 1.3 m wingspan. It has a white face with a black and white body, and dark legs.

Barnacle goose

Latin NameBranta leucopsis
DietEats the leaves and shoots of grasses, as well as seeds.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionCan be seen on much of the British coastline, with the highest concentrations in the Solway Firth.
HabitatBarnacle geese reside in coastal farmland habitats, as well as wetlands and ponds.
Migrant/ResidentWinter visitor.
Interesting factAs barnacle geese breed near the arctic, medieval people in Britain were confused as to where young birds came from. This led to the belief that they hatched from barnacles – from where the species gets its name.

Greylag Goose

Greylag geese are light grey birds with dark wings and pink legs. They are one of the largest geese found in the UK, measuring about 83 cm in length, with 1.6 m wingspans.

Greylag Goose

Latin NameAnser anser
DietThey feed mostly on grass shoots and cereal crops.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionFeral greylag geese are seen year-round in many lowland regions, while wild birds arrive in winter and nest mostly in northern areas.
HabitatSeen in a range of habitats, including farmland, wetland areas and reservoirs.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factThe greylag goose is the closest relative to the domestic goose, thought to have been tamed in the 14th century and bred for its meat.

Pink-footed Goose

A grey bird with a pink bill, the pink-footed goose is named after its distinctive pink feet. It’s a small goose species, measuring 68 cm in length, with a wingspan of 1.5 m.

Pink-footed Goose

 

Latin NameAnser brachyrhynchus
DietThe species feeds on cereal crops, grasses and aquatic plants.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionMostly seen on the coast, especially in eastern parts of the country.
HabitatLarge estuaries such as the Solway Firth are preferred, with farmland and coastal wetlands being other places to see them.
Migrant/ResidentWinter visitor.
Interesting factDuring their annual migrations, pink-footed geese can travel at speeds of up to 40 mph when the wind is at their backs.

Ducks

Common shelduck

The common shelduck is a colourful bird with a dark green head and neck, a red bill and a chestnut stripe across the chest. It’s a large duck – averaging 61 cm in length, with a 1.1 m wingspan.

Tadorna-tadorna

Latin NameTadorna tadorna
DietFeeds mostly on invertebrates and aquatic molluscs.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionShelducks are found in coastal areas right around the UK, although they can sometimes be seen further inland.
HabitatInshore coastal waters are their preferred habitat, along with reservoirs and wetlands.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factUnusually for a duck, the shelduck likes to nest in rabbit burrows and tree holes, where between 8 and 10 eggs are laid.

Northern shoveler

Named after its broad, distinctive bill, the northern shoveler measures 50 cm in length and has a 77 cm wingspan. The males have green heads and a mixture of orange and white plumage, while females are a mottled brown.

Northern shoveler

Latin NameSpatula clypeata
DietSmall insects make up the majority of its diet, along with aquatic plant matter.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionFound throughout large parts of the UK but mainly in southern regions. It is present all year-round, although is most common in winter.
HabitatCoastal regions and freshwater habitats such as wetlands.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factThe bill of a northern shoveler is a highly developed tool, equipped with comb-like edges which allow the bird to sieve small invertebrates from the water.

 

Gadwall

Gadwalls are medium-sized ducks that average 51 cm in length, with 90 cm wingspans. Both sexes have dark grey plumage, with black rear ends and obvious white patches on their wings.

Gadwall

Latin NameMareca strepera
DietAquatic vegetation is their primary food, although insects may also be eaten.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionGadwalls live mostly in the Midlands and south-east England, but there are also populations in north-east Scotland and Wales.
HabitatMostly seen in coastal wetlands and estuaries, although they often breed on the edges of lakes and reservoirs.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factDuring the breeding season, male gadwalls engage in courtship displays towards females, often raising their heads and flashing the white feathers on their wings.

Eurasian wigeon

Male wigeons have brown heads, pink breasts and grey bodies, whereas females are dark brown. Averaging 45 cm in length, they have 80 cm wingspans.

Eurasian wigeon

Latin NameMareca penelope
DietMainly aquatic vegetation.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionMostly seen around the coast, throughout the UK. Some pairs breed in Cambridgeshire and the north of Scotland.
HabitatEstuaries and coastal wetland habitats are the best places to see Eurasian wigeons.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factAlthough some wigeons live here all year-round, many migrate north after winter, spending the summer months in Iceland, Scandinavia and Russia.

 

Mallard

One of the most recognisable duck species, the mallard is a large species, measuring 57 cm in length, with 90 cm wingspans. Females have mottled brown plumage, whereas males have green heads and grey bodies.

Anas-platyrhynchos

Latin NameAnas platyrhynchos
DietTheir omnivorous diets are varied, including berries, plant matter, invertebrates and molluscs.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionMallards are the most widespread duck in the UK, found almost everywhere.
HabitatAll water bodies are used, although freshwater habitats such as wetlands are preferred.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factMallards were the first species of bird found to sleep with one eye open, as a way to detect predators. To do this, they shut down half of their brain at a time.

Northern pintail

The northern pintail can be identified by its long tail feathers and is a large duck, measuring 60 cm in length, with 88 cm wingspans. Males have brown heads and a mix of grey and white body plumage, while females are largely brown.

Pintails

Latin NameAnas acuta
DietMainly aquatic plants in winter and invertebrates in summer.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionPintails are found locally around the UK coastline, with some pairs breeding in Scotland and eastern England.
HabitatSheltered coasts and large estuaries such as the Dee Estuary are their preferred habitat.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factNorthern pintails are dabbling ducks, finding their food by upending themselves in shallow water and using their long necks to reach the bottom

Eurasian teal

The Eurasian teal is the smallest duck species in the UK, measuring 36 cm in length, with a 61 cm wingspan. Both sexes have a green wing patch, but females are mottled brown, with males having brown with males having brown and green patches on their heads.

Eurasian teal

 

Latin NameAnas crecca
DietMainly aquatic invertebrates such as crustaceans, with seeds sometimes being eaten in winter.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionTeal can be seen anywhere in the UK, but are especially common in upland regions in summer, moving to the coast in winter.
HabitatMainly freshwater habitats such as lakes, reservoirs and wetlands.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factYoung teal leave the nest just a few hours after hatching and are led to nearby water by their mothers, who look after them for about a month.

Common pochard

Female common pochards have light brown and grey plumage, while males have a mixture of grey and white colours, with rufous heads. Measuring 46 cm in length, they have 77 cm wingspans.

common pochards

Latin NameAythya ferina
DietMainly aquatic plants, supplemented by molluscs, insects and small fish.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionWidespread in coastal regions, the common pochard can be found in large parts of England and Wales, being less common elsewhere.
HabitatMostly seen on large lakes, reservoirs and estuaries.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factAlthough male pochards are colourful during the breeding season, they moult afterwards, developing ‘eclipse plumage’ – ensuring they are less obvious to predators.

 

Tufted duck

The tufted duck is easily recognisable by the feathery tufts on the back of its head. Both sexes have dark plumage, although males sport large white patches of their sides. The species measures 43 cm in length, with a 70 cm wingspan.

Tufted duck

Latin NameAythya fuligula
DietMolluscs and insects are preferred, with aquatic vegetation also being eaten.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionTufted ducks are found in lowland regions right around the UK.
HabitatMost often seen in reservoirs, lakes and wetland areas.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factThe tufted duck is a diving species and will duck under the water for up to a minute in search of food, often doing so in small groups.

Common eider

The eider is a large, heavy species of duck, measuring about 57 cm in length, with a wingspan of 94 cm. Females are mottled brown in colour, while males are black and white with yellowish bills.

Latin Nameomateria mollissima
DietMostly shellfish such as mussels.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionOnly found on the coast, eiders live right around the UK. They breed in Scotland and northern England in summer, but are seen further south during winter.
HabitatPrimarily inshore waters, especially around rocky coasts.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factEiders are famed for their very soft, downy feathers, which females use to line their nests. The feathers were so sought after by humans that the species nearly went extinct in the 19th century.

Common scoter

Male common scoters are all-black, with females having browner plumage. Both sexes have a large, bulbous bill. They average 48 cm in length, with 84 cm wingspans.

common scoters

Latin NameMelanitta nigra
DietCrustaceans and molluscs are commonly consumed, along with the occasional insect.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionScoters can be found around the UK coast, but only breed in small lochs in Scotland.
HabitatMostly seen in inshore waters, especially in bays and estuaries.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factScoters dive for their food, often keeping their wings open while underwater – a behaviour that helps keep them balanced and gives the impression that they are ‘flying’.

Common goldeneye

Hence their name, goldeneyes can be identified by their distinctive yellow eyes. Females are grey with rufous heads, while males are black and white with green heads. They measure 44 cm in length, with 72 cm wingspans.

Common goldeneye

Latin NameBucephala clangula
DietCrustaceans, insects and molluscs, supplemented by aquatic plants.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionMost common in north-west Britain, although they can be found almost anywhere. They only breed in the Scottish Highlands.
HabitatLakes and large rivers are preferred by goldeneyes, although they also frequent sheltered coasts.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factGoldeneye choose to nest in tree cavities near water, but they will also use nest boxes. The provision of such nesting sites in Scotland has encouraged the species to breed more readily in recent years.

Goosander

The goosander is a medium-sized duck with a long bill. Males are white with green heads, while females are grey with brown heads. The species averages 63 cm in length, with a wingspan of 90 cm.

Goosanders

Latin NameMergus merganser
DietMainly fish but occasionally crustaceans and molluscs.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionPresent throughout much of the country, goosanders can be found in upland areas during summer, moving towards the coast in winter.
HabitatSeen in mountain rivers, as well as reservoirs, lakes and estuaries.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factThe bill of a goosander is highly serrated, possessing a series of sharp teeth-like structures which help the bird keep hold of fish.

Red-breasted merganser

The red-breasted merganser is a slender duck that measures 55 cm in length, with a 78 cm wingspan. Females tend to be grey with rufous-coloured heads, while males have green heads and orange breasts.

Red-breasted mergansers

Latin NameMergus serrator
DietFish are their most common food.
Best time to seeNovember to February.
DistributionRed-breasted mergansers can be seen in north-western regions of Scotland, England and Wales. Elsewhere, they are seen on the coast during winter.
HabitatNests on lakes and rivers but often feeds in inshore waters.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factThe red-breasted merganser is the fastest duck ever recorded, with one individual observed at a wind-assisted speed of 100 mph while escaping a plane.

Oystercatchers

Eurasian oystercatcher

Oystercatchers are large wading birds, measuring 42 cm on average, with 83 cm wingspans. They are black and white, with long red legs and a red bill.

Eurasian oystercatcher

Latin NameHaematopus ostralegus
DietMussels and cockles are eaten most often, supplemented by worms.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionFound right around the UK coast. Less common further inland.
HabitatFound right around the UK coast. Less common further inland.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factDespite their name, Oystercatchers do not feed on oysters very often, however they are one of the few species of bird who are capable of opening these tough shellfish.

Rails & Coots

Water rail

Water rails have grey bodies with black and brown streaks on their wings. Their feet are large and they have long, red bills. Averaging 28 cm in length, they have 42 cm wingspans.

Water rail

Latin NameRallus aquaticus
DietTheir omnivorous diet includes worms, molluscs and insects, along with occasional plant matter.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionWidely found in southern regions of the UK, being most common in eastern England.
HabitatWater rail prefer freshwater habitats and are often seen in wetland areas and around lakes that are fringed with dense vegetation.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factWater rail are one of the most secretive birds in the UK. They are rarely seen out in the open and almost never fly during daylight hours, preferring instead to skulk through the vegetation.

 

Corncrake

Corncrakes are lightly-coloured birds with small, squat bodies and long legs. They measure 28 cm in length and have 50 cm wingspans.

Corncrakes

Latin NameCrex crex
DietFeeds mainly on insects and grass seeds.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionCorncrakes are largely found in the north-west islands of Scotland, with small populations living on the coast in Northern Ireland.
HabitatPrimarily a terrestrial bird, corncrakes can be seen in meadows and open farmland.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factDuring the breeding season, male corncrakes produce a rasping call during the night. It can sometimes be heard as far as 1.5 km away.

Common moorhen

The moorhen is a very recognisable bird, with dark plumage and a small red bill. It also has small white patches on its wings. The species averages about 33 cm in length, with a 52 cm wingspan.

Gallinula_chloropus

Latin NameGallinula chloropus
DietIts varied diet includes aquatic plants, berries, insects and molluscs.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionFound almost everywhere, apart from upland regions and areas of north-west Scotland.
HabitatMoorhens are birds of freshwater habitats, being particularly common in wetlands, canals and rivers.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factDespite its common name, moorhens are very rarely found on moors, with the name likely to be a corruption of ‘mirehen’ or ‘marshhen’.

Coot

The coot is closely related to the moorhen but is larger, measuring 38 cm on average, with a 75 cm wingspan. Its plumage is uniformly black and it has a small, white bill.

Fulica_atra

Latin NameFulica atra
DietLargely made up of aquatic plants, molluscs and seeds.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionFound throughout lowland regions of the UK, only being absent from north-west Scotland.
HabitatCoots are widespread in towns and countrysides, being common in wetland areas and often moving towards the coast during winter.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factWhile diving for food, the coot can compress its wings in order to squeeze out as much trapped air as possible, allowing it to dive for longer periods.

 

Avocets

Pied avocet

An elegant bird, the pied avocet has long legs and a long bill that curves upwards at the end. Its plumage is a mixture of black and white. Averaging 44 cm in length, it has a 78 cm wingspan.

Pied avocet

Latin NameRecurvirostra avosetta
DietPied avocets mostly feed on insects and crustaceans.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionPied avocets are mainly found in south-east regions of the UK, with the largest populations found on the east coast of England.
HabitatCoastal lagoons and estuaries are preferred.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factPied avocets use their long bills to scythe through the water from side to side, filtering out food as they go. This feeding technique is not found in any other species.

Plovers

Ringed plover

Ringed plovers have white underbellies and brown wings, with black and white bands around their faces. Their orange bills have a black tip. Measuring 19 cm in length, the species has a 52 cm wingspan.

Ringed plover

Latin NameCharadrius hiaticula
DietMostly insects and crustaceans, supplemented by worms and molluscs.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionRinged plovers are common sights on coastlines around the UK, although they tend to move further inland during summer to breed.
HabitatMostly found on beaches and coastal wetland.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and summer visitor.
Interesting factParent ringed plovers will sometimes feign broken wings to lure predators away from their nests, putting themselves at risk to protect their young.

European golden plover

Named after their speckled black and gold plumage, European golden plovers have black underbellies in summer, which turn mottled in colour during winter. They measure 27 cm in length, with 72 cm wingspans.

European golden plover

Latin NamePluvialis apricaria
DietWorms and insects are their main foods.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionGolden plovers are found in upland regions of Scotland and northern England during summer, before moving to coastlines around the country in winter.
HabitatMoorland is preferred for nesting, with farmland and coastal estuaries being key habitats in winter.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factA debate over whether the golden plover was the fastest game bird in Europe was the inspiration for the popular book, the Guinness World Records. As for the original debate, the golden plover is indeed the fastest.

Lapwing

Lapwings have black and white plumage and can be identified by their long crests and rounded wings. Measuring about 30 cm in length, they have 84 cm wingspans.

Lapwing

Latin NameVanellus vanellus
DietLargely insects and other invertebrates such as worms.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionLapwings are found throughout the UK, predominantly in lowland regions of northern England and eastern Scotland.
HabitatThey are seen most often on farmland and open meadows, although they also reside in wetlands and coastal estuaries.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factThe lapwing is also commonly known as the ‘peewit’ – a name which stems from its high-pitched calls. Males call extensively during the breeding season, while putting on impressive aerial displays for females.

Sandpipers

Red knot

The red knot is a dumpy bird with short legs, measuring 24 cm in length, with a 59 cm wingspan. It is silvery-grey during the winter, but develops a colourful red breast during the breeding season.

Calidris_canutus Red knot

Latin NameCalidris canutus
DietShellfish and worms make up most of its diet, with the occasional insect.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionPresent on coastlines around the country, although less common in the north-west.
HabitatRed knots are primarily coastal birds, with muddy estuaries being their preferred habitat.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factThe tip of a red knot’s bill has specialised sensory organs – known as Herbst corpuscles – which alert the bird to changes in pressure as it probes the mud. This indicates areas where shells and other creatures may be hiding.

 

Sanderling

Sanderlings are small, plump wading birds that average 20 cm in length, with 42 cm wingspans. They have white underbellies and grey upper parts, with dark legs.

Calidris-alba, Sanderlings

Latin NameCalidris alba
DietMarine worms, crustaceans and molluscs.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionWith the exception of southern England and western Scotland, sanderlings are common around the UK.
HabitatA coastal species, the sanderling can be found on sandy beaches and mudflats.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factSanderlings have a very distinctive running action due to not having hind toes – an unusual characteristic among the sandpiper family. This adaptation allows them to run very fast as they dodge the waves on sandy shores.

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Common sandpiper

Common sandpipers have greenish-brown plumage above, with white underbellies and green legs. Averaging 20 cm in length, they have 40 cm wingspans.

Actitis-hypoleucos

Latin NameActitis hypoleucos
DietThey feed mostly on aquatic invertebrates such as worms, as well as insects.
Best time to seeJune to August.
DistributionSeen mainly on the south coast of England in winter, being more widespread during summer.
HabitatCommon sandpipers breed around lakes and rivers, but can be found on coastal wetlands and estuaries at other times of year.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and summer visitor.
Interesting factThe common sandpiper often appears to be a very nervous bird, as it repeatedly bobs up and down while on the ground – a behaviour known as ‘teetering’.

 

Dunlin

The dunlin can be distinguished by having a black belly patch and reddish-brown plumage during the summer. In winter, they become greyer. Measuring about 19 cm in length, they have 40 cm wingspans.

Dunlins

Latin NameCalidris alpina
DietMolluscs, worms and insects.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionFound right around the UK coast, although they are most common in north-west Scotland and other upland areas during the breeding season. Elsewhere, they are largely seen in winter.
HabitatUpland moors and bog are preferred for breeding, while estuaries are important feeding grounds.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factDunlins are often seen in very large flocks – known as ‘flings’. These can number well into the thousands and individuals within the group execute coordinated manoeuvres to avoid aerial predators.

 

Turnstone

Turnstones have white underbellies, brown wings and a mixture of black and white markings on their face. They are medium-sized sandpipers, measuring 22 cm in length, with 54 cm wingspans.

Arenaria_interpres

Latin NameArenaria interpres
DietMostly worms and molluscs, with insects being an important food source in summer.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionCommon right around the UK coast.
HabitatTurnstones can be seen on rocky shores, as well as muddy estuaries and beaches.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder and winter visitor.
Interesting factTurnstones get their name from their tendency to flip stones over with their bills, in order to find snails and other marine creatures hiding underneath.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Bar-tailed godwits have grey-brown plumage in winter, which turns brick-red in summer. They are tall wading birds with long beaks, and average 38 cm in length, with 75 cm wingspans.

Bar-tailed Godwit

Latin NameLimosa lapponica
DietMarine worms and crustaceans make up the majority of their diet.
Best time to seeNovember to February.
DistributionPresent on coastlines everywhere in the UK.
HabitatA wide range of coastal habitats are utilised by the bar-tailed godwit, but it is most often seen in large estuaries.
Migrant/ResidentWinter visitor.
Interesting factBar-tailed godwits undertake the longest non-stop migrations of any bird, with one bird found to cover more than 11,500 km without stopping.

Curlew

A tall, long-legged bird, the curlew has mottled brown plumage and can be identified by its long, curved bill. It measures 55 cm in length on average, with a 90 cm wingspan.

Numenius-arquata

Latin NameNumenius arquata
DietWorms and shellfish are consumed most often, while crustaceans may be taken on occasion.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionCurlews can be found right around the UK coastline, with large breeding populations in Wales, Scotland and northern England.
HabitatUpland moors and heath are preferred for breeding, although the species can often be seen on coastal wetlands and estuaries.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factCurlews were once widely eaten in the UK, even being served in pies in Cornwall. Since then, their numbers have decreased sharply and they are now a threatened species.

 

Common redshank

The common redshank has brownish plumage and a medium-length bill, being named after its distinctive red legs. Measuring 28 cm in length on average, it has a 62 cm wingspan.

Common redshank

Latin NameTringa totanus
DietPrimarily small invertebrates, although molluscs will also be eaten.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionAlthough found everywhere on the UK coastline, the species is most common in Scotland and northern England.
HabitatCommon redshanks normally feed in estuaries, but tend to breed in damp coastal habitats such as saltmarsh.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factCommon redshanks are very wary birds and are often the first species to give alarm calls when danger is nearby, alerting other species to the threat.

Common Greenshank

The greenshank is a medium-sized wader, measuring 32 cm in length, with a 69 cm wingspan. It has a long bill, olive-grey plumage and greenish legs.

Common Greenshank

Latin NameTringa nebularia
DietMainly worms and snails, although fish will also be eaten.
Best time to seeJanuary to December.
DistributionGreenshanks can be seen anywhere on the UK coast during their migrations, but only breed in north-west Scotland.
HabitatBoggy moorland and peat habitats are preferred for nesting, while coastal estuaries and wetlands are favoured feeding grounds.
Migrant/ResidentMale greenshanks perform elaborate display flights over their breeding grounds, often tumbling in the air while singing exuberantly.
Interesting factDiving to depths of up to 6 metres, these birds have an 80% success rate when it comes to finding food.

Kingfishers

Common kingfisher

The kingfisher is one of the most colourful birds in the UK, with plumage that is a mixture of orange, white and electric blue. It has a long, sharp beak and pink feet. Measuring just 16 cm in length, it has a 25 cm wingspan.

Alcedo_atthis

Latin NameAlcedo atthis
DietMainly small fish such as minnows, along with the occasional insect.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionFound largely in southern regions of the UK, with some populations in central Scotland and Northern Ireland.
HabitatKingfishers are birds of slow-moving waterways such as lakes, canals and rivers. They often move closer to the coast during winter.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factA kingfisher’s beak is designed to be as aerodynamic as possible, allowing it to cut through air and water with maximum speed. It works so efficiently that many Japanese bullet trains are designed to mimic it.

Raptors

White-tailed eagle

As the largest bird of prey in the UK, the white-tailed eagle measures 85 cm in length, with a 2.2 m wingspan. It has brown plumage, with a pale head and distinctive white tail feathers.

Haliaeetus-albicilla White-tailed eagle

Latin NameHaliaeetus albicilla
DietFish is preferred, although mammals, birds and carrion will also be eaten.
Best time to seeDecember to February.
DistributionThe species was confined to the north-west of Scotland in previous years, although a breeding program has now introduced some birds to eastern Scotland.
HabitatWhite-tailed eagles can be found in lowland coastal habitats such as estuaries and marshes.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factWhite-tailed eagles often reuse the same nests time and again, with some being occupied for more than 100 years, by multiple generations.

Western marsh harrier

Female western marsh harriers have chocolate-brown plumage and pale heads, while males are lighter in colour and have grey wings. Both sexes have long tails and average 51 cm in length, with 1.2 m wingspans.

Western marsh harrier

Latin NameCircus aeruginosus
DietPredominantly small mammals and birds.
Best time to seeApril to August.
DistributionMainly found in south-east England, with small populations in Scotland and north-west England.
HabitatMarsh harriers are usually seen over marshland and reedbeds in coastal areas.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factAfter relentless persecution, just one female marsh harrier remained in the UK in 1971. The species has since bounced back and has increased in number in recent years, with more than 400 breeding pairs.

Falcons

Peregrine falcon

The peregrine falcon is the largest of the UK’s falcons, measuring 45 cm in length on average, with a 1.2 m wingspan. It has slate-grey plumage above and white feathers with grey barring below.

peregrine falcon

Latin NameFalco peregrinus
DietMedium-sized birds are the most common food taken.
Best time to seeMarch to June.
DistributionCan be found almost anywhere in the UK, apart from higher altitudes in the Scottish Highlands.
HabitatPeregrine falcons are often seen around rocky seacliffs in spring and summer, moving further inland during winter.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factPeregrines are the fastest animals on the planet, capable of reaching speeds in excess of 200 mph as they dive in pursuit of prey.

Passerines

Reed Bunting

Reed buntings have streaky brown plumage, although males have a darker colouration and a black head. They measure 16 cm in length, with 24 cm wingspans.

Emberiza-schoeniclus

Latin NameEmberiza schoeniclus
DietMostly seeds, supplemented by insects.
Best time to seeMay to July.
DistributionCommon throughout much of the UK, with higher numbers in the south.
HabitatReed buntings are most often seen around farmland and wetland areas, although they use a wide variety of habitats and will even visit gardens.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factReed buntings sometimes roost in very large numbers, often in wetland habitats, grouping together overnight so that they can better detect predators.

Eurasian reed warbler

The Eurasian reed warbler is a small bird that measures 13 cm in length, with a 19 cm wingspan. Its plumage is pale brown above and lighter below, with yellowish areas around the wings.

Acrocephalus-scripaceus

Latin NameAcrocephalus scirpaceus
DietMainly feeds on insects, although berries will be eaten in autumn.
Best time to seeMay to September.
DistributionEurasian reed warblers are mostly found in southern England and coastal regions in Wales.
HabitatPrimarily reedbeds in wetland areas.
Migrant/ResidentBreeding summer visitor.
Interesting factEurasian reed warblers often fall foul to the brood parasitism of cuckoos – who remove the reed warbler’s eggs from the nest and replace them with one of their own.

 

Red-billed chough

The red-billed chough gets its name from its bright red bill, with legs of the same colour. Its plumage is uniformly black. It’s a medium-sized bird, measuring 39 cm in length, with an 82 cm wingspan.

Pyrrhocorax_pyrrhocorax Red-billed chough

Latin NamePyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
DietInvertebrates such as spiders are consumed most often.
Best time to seeMarch to June.
DistributionRed-billed choughs are confined to western coasts, with the largest numbers found in Wales. Can also be found in Cornwall and western Scotland.
HabitatRocky coasts are their preferred habitat, although they can also be seen on grassland.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factIt was once believed that choughs would steal matches from houses and set fire to thatched roofs. This belief possibly stemmed from the birds’ bright red features.

 

European stonechat

The European Stonechat is a small bird with brown upper parts and a reddish breast. Males have black heads with white necks. Measuring 12 cm in length, they have a 20 cm wingspan.

Saxicola_rubicola European stonechat

Latin NameSaxicola rubicola
DietMainly invertebrates, seeds and the occasional berry.
Best time to seeMarch to June.
DistributionWidespread in the UK, with the greatest numbers found in southern England and Wales.
HabitatStonechats are often seen in areas of heathland and grassland, especially near the coast.
Migrant/ResidentResident breeder.
Interesting factStonechats are so-called because their loud calls sound just like two stones being tapped together. They often do this while perched near the tops of trees.

 

References  and more info:

Animal Diversity Web – https://animaldiversity.org/
Arnott, W. (1977). Swan Songs. Greece & Rome, 24(2), 149-153. Retrieved March 1, 2021, from http://www.jstor.org/stable/642700
Birds of Britain – https://birdsofbritain.co.uk/index.asp
National Trust – https://www.nationaltrust.org.uk/blakeney-national-nature-reserve/features/seven-facts-you-didnt-know-about-little-terns
Oceanwide Expeditions – https://oceanwide-expeditions.com/to-do/wildlife/storm-petrel
RSPB – https://www.rspb.org.uk/
ScienceDirect – https://www.sciencedirect.com/
Scottish Wildlife Trust – https://scottishwildlifetrust.org.uk/
The Wildlife Trusts – https://www.wildlifetrusts.org/
WhatBird – http://www.whatbird.com/