Bailiwick of Guernsey

The Bailiwick of Guernsey is a self-governing British Crown Dependency off the coast of Normandy, France, comprising several of the Channel Islands. It has a total land area of  less than 80 square kilometres (30 square miles) and an estimated total population of c 68,000. The island of Guernsey has a population of around 63,000 in 62km2 (24 square miles) and forms the legal and administrative centre of the Bailiwick of Guernsey. The parliament of Guernsey and the nearby inhabited islands of Herm, Jethou and Lihou is the States of Guernsey. (Alderney has its own parliament).

Situated around 49.4°N 2.6°W, Alderney, Guernsey, Herm, Sark, and some other smaller islands together have coastlines of about 50 km (31 mi). Elevation varies from sea level to 114m (374 ft) at Le Moulin on Sark. Sark has a population of around 600 who live in 2 square miles (5.2 km2). Its parliament (together with the inhabited island of Brecqhou) is the Chief Pleas of Sark, with 18 elected members.

There are many smaller islands, islets, rocks and reefs in the Bailiwick. Combined with a tidal range of 10m and fast currents of up to 12 knots, sailing in local waters is dangerous.

Top Sites
  • Burhou

    Satellite View
    Burhou island, 5 km to the north of Alderney, is about one kilometre long by half a kilometre wide. At one time its population of European Storm-petrels was estimated to be 1,000 plus pairs. Today this figure is put closer to 150 pairs, although it is difficult to census the birds. Manx Shearwaters are frequently seen near to the island, and they have been trapped (for ringing) at night over the island. The breeding colony of 275 pairs of Lesser Black-backed Gulls is stable, but Puffin numbers have decreased from 50,000 pairs in 1950 to around 300 currently. In order to minimise disturbance to the breeding Puffins the island is closed to visitors until mid-July each year.
  • Fort le Crocq

    Satellite View
    A west coast rocky headland with several sandy areas and off-lying islands. Premier site for waders with 22 species recorded to date. Roost offshore for Little Egrets, Grey Herons and waders. Regular hunting territory of Peregrine Falcons and Merlin (winter).
  • Grand Havre Bay

    Satellite View
    A large natural bay with several sandy beaches. A freshwater outlet from the Vale Pond runs into the bay. Another very good bay for waders with good numbers of Dunlin, Ringed Plover, Sanderling and Ruddy Turnstone. Divers, grebes and occasional sea ducks in winter. Sea-watching in north-westerly winds from Chouet Headland (and nearby Jaonneusse Bay headland) can be superb with reasonable numbers of Manx, Balearic and Sooty Shearwaters, Cory`s and Great Shearwater (both rare); Arctic, Great and Pomarine Skuas, impressive movements of Northern gannets and Black-legged Kittiwakes.
  • Guernsey Shoreline

    Satellite View
    A rocky shoreline which runs north from St Peter Port Harbour, around the north coast and down the west coast to Pleinmont, with numerous small bays of both sand and shingle. There are a number of low-lying reefs and islets which greatly increase the area of habitat available. The shoreline is of national importance for wintering Ringed Plover (330) and of international importance for Ruddy Turnstones (730). Many other wading birds occur. During migration up to 25 species of wader can be found and observed at close range. The principal feeding areas are centred on Richmond, Rocquaine, Belle Greve and Grand Havre. There are also a number of roosts at Pecqueries, Miellete and Portinfer. The offshore islets of Houmet Paradis, Omptolle, La Capelle and the rocks off Fort le Crocq also provide safe and undisturbed roost sites.
  • Herm, Jethou & Offshore Islets

    Satellite View
    Herm, and its offshore islets, are important for their colonies of breeding seabirds which include Puffins (85 birds); Manx Shearwaters (10 pairs on Jethou); Common Terns (50 pairs); Fulmar (40 pairs); Lesser Black-backed Gull (110 pairs); Herring Gull (200 pairs); Great Black-backed gull (85 pairs); Razorbill (35 birds); Common Guillemot (120 birds) and European Shag (330 pairs). Other breeding species include single pairs of Raven and Long-eared Owl. Sadly the excellent boat trip, the RSPB Puffin Patrol, that used to run around Herm and Jethou twice each week during the summer to show people Puffins and other seabirds, no longer operates. The island can be very exciting during the migrations. Herm also has a wintering population of around 100 dark-bellied Brent Geese.
  • L'Ancresse, Vale

    Satellite View
    A low lying area of heath-land-common with gorse. A golf course has been created over the western end of the area. During spring and autumn migration the position of the site on the island’s north coast often allows for the build up of migrants. This is the first landfall after the 70-mile crossing of the English Channel. Common Redstart, Northern Wheatear, Whinchat and Yellow Wagtail can be abundant. Waders also use the area with Whimbrel every spring and autumn, and Buff-breasted Sandpipers and Dotterels on a regular basis.
  • L'Eree

    Satellite View
    Open low lying grassland. An area of open water and phragmites reeds forms the northern boundary. A maturing reserve, which is producing scarce and rare birds on an annual basis. Regular Curlew roost of up to 140 birds, Little Egrets (20 birds). Excellent site for passage hirundines and warblers. Aquatic Warblers are annual autumn migrants.
  • Les Landes Vale

    Satellite View
    A modestly sized reed bed with pools of standing water. Good for freshwater waders on passage, breeding Reed Warblers and passage Sedge Warblers. Aquatic warblers have been regular at this site. Probably the best site for Cetti's Warbler.
  • Ortac

    Satellite View
    A small isolated sandstone stack, located 4.5 km off the north-west coast of Alderney. It rises 24m above the sea and has a colony of just over 2,000 pairs of Northern Gannets. A few Black-legged Kittiwakes and Common Guillemots also breed on this rock.
  • Pleinmont, Torteval

    Satellite View
    A cliff-top headland forming the south-west corner of Guernsey. Remnant heath-land with a mixture of small fields and non-cultivated land makes this the largest open area on the south coast. Many of the passerine migrants occur in their highest numbers at Pleinmont. More than 150 species have been recorded on this site alone. Breeding birds include Long-eared Owl, Eurasian Sparrowhawk, Common Stonechat, Linnet, Dartford Warbler and (occasionally) Black Redstart.
  • Sark, Brecqhou & Offshore Islets

    Satellite View
    Sark and its offshore islands and islets (including the private island of Brecqhou) lie 12 km east of Guernsey, and 35 km from the west coast of the Cotentin peninsula in Normandy. Sark is almost divided into two islands by a sheer-sided isthmus 3m wide and 90m high. The island is basically a plateau about 90 metres high with steep granite cliffs rising out of the sea. The island has a special rural character (with no motor cars). Its coastal scenery is spectacular and beautiful. It is about 6.5 km by 3.5 km in size. The shallower slopes at the tops of the cliffs are covered with bracken, gorse or scrub consisting mostly of hawthorn or blackthorn. There are a number of islets off both the east and west coasts which support breeding seabirds. There are two small colonies of Manx Shearwaters (c 30 pairs each); but these are highly vulnerable to predation from feral cats. Peregrine Falcons are breeding again on the cliffs, and the largest colony of Common Guillemots in the Channel Islands (120 birds) can be viewed on Les Autelets. Ringing studies carried out at a site on the north coast have shown that the island’s scrub and common habitats are widely used by significant numbers of migratory birds during both spring and autumn passages. The site also turned up scarce birds and national rarities annually.
  • South Coast Cliffs

    Satellite View
    Cliff and heath-land dominated by gorse. Scenically stunning, the cliffs are also home to low numbers of breeding Dartford Warblers. Also good for breeding seabirds- Northern Fulmars (15 pairs); European Shag (100 pairs); Lesser Black-backed Gull (35 pairs); Herring Gull (550 pairs) and Great Black-backed Gull (20 pairs). There is also one pair each of Ravens and Peregrine Falcons.
  • St Saviour's Reservoir

    Satellite View
    Largest surface area of freshwater on island, surrounded by conifer and deciduous plantations. Open water is attractive to diving ducks in winter. Also good for gull roosts (including Glaucous and Kumlien’s Gulls in recent years).
  • Vale Marais

    Satellite View
    A private site, which has been the subject of an intensive ornithological study. A freshwater pond, surrounded by small areas of reed and willow beds. Two unimproved meadows to the south provide additional valuable habitat. This is one of the best sites remaining in Guernsey. 161 species recorded to date. Scarce/rare birds recorded annually.
  • Vale Pond

    Satellite View
    The largest area of brackish water on the island. Fringed with reeds and subject to tidal influence. This is another of the most important ornithological sites in Guernsey. More than 140 species have been recorded, including many rarities. Water birds, waders and reed-bed birds.
  • Wooded Valleys

    Satellite View
    A number of small valleys with mixed woodland. The best of these are:-Fauxquets Valley (WV293785 to WV299772); Talbot Valley (WV 294786 to WV 301782); Havilland, Foulon, St Andrew’s (WV 322780 to WV 322788); Petit Bot (WV 300752 to WV 308754); Fermain/Bouvee (WV 332762 to WV 339769 and WV 337755 to WV 340755); and Silbe/La Rue des Vinaires (WV 263765 to WV 265767). These valleys provide breeding sites for a variety of species which are found in broad-leaved woodland, including Short-toed Treecreeper, Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Eurasian Sparrowhawk and Long-eared Owl. Other summering birds have included Eurasian Golden-oriole, Great Spotted Woodpecker and the occasional Honey-buzzard. Firecrest breeds in some years.
  • Tim Earl


County Recorder
  • Mark Lawlor

    St Etienne, Les Effards, St Sampsons,, Guernsey, Channel Islands, GY2 4TU

    07781 122313

  • iGoTerra Checklist

    Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
  • Guernsey Birds - Ornithological Section - La Societe Guernesiaise

    Birdwatching in the Bailiwick of Guernsey is an increasingly popular pastime with over 200 species recorded on the islands each year. The types of birds present varies considerably with the seasons but there is always something of interest to see.
  • RSPB Guernsey Bailiwick Local Group

    Welcome to the Guernsey Bailiwick Local Group Website

Abbreviations Key

  • La Société Guernesiaise Nature Reserves

    WebpageSatellite View
    La Société holds over 400 vergees (65 hectares) of land which we manage as nature reserves, making us the largest landowner in the island after the States.
Other Links
  • Mark Lawlor - Just A Bird

    Mark Lawlor's Nature Blog

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