Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax ©Ian Griffiths Website
Birding Cornwall

Cornwall is a very long county, extending 86 miles from the north Devon border to Land’s End, this is compensated for by its breadth, for although it is 46 miles across at its widest point in the east, it narrows steadily as one travels westward – its average width is only about 20 miles.

Stretching down through the county is a series of granite outcrops, part of those which reach from Dartmoor to the Isles of Scilly. These give rise to a number of moorland areas, the most extensive of which is Bodmin Moor in the east of the county. As a result of this hilly spine and the short distance from coast to coast, rivers are generally fast flowing.

Tall cliffs, especially along the north coast, delineate much of the coastline. Elsewhere, drowned river-valleys or rias form the winding estuaries of the Tamar, the Fowey, Truro-Fal complex and Helford in the south and the Camel in the north. Due to its location in the far west of the country, a number of bird species which breed regularly further east fail to reach Cornwall. Seabird communities and healthy populations of e.g. Peregrine and Stonechat redress this to some extent.

The winter offers some excellent birding, especially when severe weather up-country forces huge numbers of wildfowl, waders and thrushes southwest in search of milder conditions.

It is however for its capacity to provide some of the most exciting birding in the UK during migration, particularly in the autumn, that the county has become renowned. With one of the largest county bird-lists in the country, Cornwall consistently rewards its devotees, especially in October. Cornish birders often rely on winds from the easterly quarter to bring scarce migrants, but in October anything can turn up in any conditions and westerlies also bring rarities. There are so many potentially good sites which are under-watched, that birders have plenty of opportunity to find their own birds in peace and solitude.

There is a separate Fatbirder page for the Scilly Isles.

Top Sites
  • Camel Estuary

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    Another excellent area for wildfowl, waders and gulls.
  • Carrick Roads

    Satellite View
    Between the confluence of the Truro and Fal rivers and the open sea, good for winter sea-duck, divers and grebes, including the county's largest concentration of Black-necked Grebe.
  • Crowdy Reservoir and Davidstow Airfield

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    Exposed moor land sites near Camelford which between them attract Nearctic waders every autumn.
  • Drift Reservoir

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    First stop for transatlantic waders in autumn and good for winter gulls and wildfowl.
  • Hayle Estuary

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    Good all-year round general birding site, nearly always providing something unusual.
  • Maer Lake

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    A small pool near Bude which produces a staggering number of rare birds amongst its spring and autumn migrants. Also good in winter. Recent rarities: Upland Sandpiper, Citrine Wagtail.
  • Marazion Marsh

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    Annually reliable for Spotted Crake and Aquatic Warbler in August/September. Recent rarities: Citrine Wagtail, Paddyfield Warbler.
  • Par Beach and Pool

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    An excellent winter gull site, regularly hosting Ring-billed. Also good for waders and terns.
  • Pendeen

    Satellite View
    Popular autumn sea-watching location in strong west/north-westerlies. Often scores higher counts than St. Ives, but views usually more distant.
  • Porthgwarra

    Satellite View
    This magical valley hosted Britain's first Veery and American Redstart. Also the most reliable place in the country for late summer Cory's Shearwaters. If there are no birds, just enjoy the beautiful scenery. Recent rarities: Booted Eagle, Little Swift…
  • Rame Peninsula

    Satellite View
    Just across the sound from Plymouth, this promontory is Rame Head and Penlee Point. Good for spring and autumn migrants, sea watching and winter seabirds. Hosted Britain's one and only Wilson's Warbler, whilst recent rarities include Red-flanked Bluetail and Gyrfalcon.
  • St Ives Island

    Satellite View
    On its day the best autumn sea-watching site in Europe. Ideal conditions are strong north-westerly following south-westerly gale.
  • St.Just

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    Excellent sheltered valleys for migrants (Nanquidno, Cot, Kenidjack). Britain's only Varied Thrush and Yellow-throated Vireo were found here.
  • Stithians Reservoir

    InformationSatellite View
    Has probably declined as a wader site due to lack of mud, but still attracts many interesting birds. Recent records: Pied-billed Grebe, Lesser Scaup, Baillon's Crake and Caspian Tern.
  • The Lizard

    Satellite View
    There are many good valleys for migrants around this huge peninsula. Probably the best known are those at The Lizard village at the southerly tip Recent rarities: Little Bustard, Hume's Leaf Warbler and Red-eyed Vireo.
  • Dan Chaney


County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 433

    County Bird - Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
    [moreover it has recently started to breed in Cornwall again]
Useful Reading

  • Best Birdwatching Sites in Cornwall & The Scilly Isles

    | By Sara McMahon & Nigel Hudson | Buckingham Press | 2008 | Paperback | 208 pages, Illustrations, tabs, maps | ISBN: 9780955033957 Buy this book from
  • Birds of Cornwall

    | By Trevor Beer | Tor Mark Press | 2005 | Paperback | 32 pages, 46 colour photos | ISBN: 9780850253757 Buy this book from
  • Shadows in the Sky - Cornish Choughs

    | By Pete Cross | Studio Cactus | 2007 | Paperback | ISBN: 9781904239079 Buy this book from
  • The Birds of Cornwall & the Isles of Scilly

    | By David Chapman | Alison Hodge | 2008 | Paperback | 96 pages, 162 col photos | ISBN: 9780906720554 Buy this book from
  • Where to Watch Birds in Devon and Cornwall

    | (Including the Isles of Scilly and Lundy) | by Vic Tucker & David Norman | Christopher Helm | 2009 | Paperback | 384 Pages, B/w illus, maps | ISBN: 9780713688146 Buy this book from
Useful Information
  • Google Map of Hotspots Thanks to Simon Ashley for creating this map!
  • Cornwall Birds

    Welcome to the home page of the Cornwall Bird-Watching and Preservation Society dedicated to the study and conservation of birds in the county of Cornwall, in the far south-west of England. The Society, which celebrates its 75th Anniversary in 2006: owns or manages six nature reserves, runs weekly field meetings, publishes a comprehensive annual report, issues four annual newsletters, Palores, supports conservation-led initiatives in Cornwall
  • Cornwall Wildlife Trust

    Cornwall Wildlife Trust manages 57 Natures Reserves around the county - there's bound to be one near you! We are one of 47 Wildlife Trusts managing 2,300 nature reserves across the UK, the Isle of Man and Alderney.
  • Looe Marine Conservation Group

    Whether you’re an expert or a beginner, spotting the wide variety of sea, shore and river bird species within the VMCA is a rewarding pursuit, so why not have a go at ‘twitching’! Here are our top tips for birdwatching in Looe.
  • Operation Chough

    The Chough has only been bred in captivity in Cornwall by Paradise Park, and cannot be seen anywhere else in the Duchy. In the late 1980s we collaborated with other organisations and individual conservationists to form Operation Chough. This has been funded mostly by Paradise Park, and this included financing a three-year research project conducted by Dr. Richard Meyer. His thesis helped to solve the mystery of the Chough`s disappearance, and we are getting closer each year to being able to reintroduce this important bird to the Cornish cliffs where it belongs…
  • RSPB Cornwall Local Group

    Cornwall Members' Group arranges guided walks, many aimed at newcomers to birdwatching, throughout Cornwall all year round and holds indoor meetings, mainly in the Truro area, between September and April…

Abbreviations Key

  • CWT Windmill Farm Nature Reserve

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    Windmill Farm Nature Reserve lies on the magical Lizard peninsula in Cornwall. A special place of adventure year round! This wonderful home for wildlife comprises grassland and heathland, as well as scrub, bog, swamp and hedgerow.
  • LNR St Gothian Sands Nature Reserve

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    St Gothian Sands NR was officially opened in 2005. The reserve was created when the old Sand works at Gwithian closed down leaving some great habitat, attractive to birds. This blog will hopefully keep you up to date with whats been seen and whats happening on the reserve…
  • RSPB Hayle Estuary

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    Wading birds such as dunlins, curlews and grey plovers spend the winter here and if you are very lucky you might see a rare North American wader!
  • RSPB Marazion Marsh

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    In August and September, two special rare birds visit on migration - the spotted crake and aquatic warbler. Over-wintering bitterns are now regular visitors…
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • Cornwall Birding News

    Sightings & Bird News
    @CornwallBrdNews - Cornwalls Premier Birding Website. For up-to-date news on Birds in Cornwall and much more
  • Nature Conservation in Cornish

    Mailing Group
    Discusses all aspects of wildlifeconservation in the County of Cornwall in the UK.This is a particularly unstudied area and more research is needed to ensure the survival of this particularly important biological area.You don't need to be a resident of Cornwall to join or be a wildlife expert.
  • Recent Sightings

    Sightings & Bird News
    Cornwall Bird Watching & Preservation Society sightings page. This news has not been verified by CBWPS. Inclusion does not imply acceptance as an official record, or agreement with the identification.
Guides & Tour Operators
  • AK Wildlife Cruises

    Tour Operator
    At AK Wildlife cruises we cover the entire Carrick roads, running specific trips especially in winter, and have huge numbers of birds including black necked grebe; slavonian grebe; divers (great northern still present, we had one today! also RT and BN wintering); red breasted merganser; scoter and lots more - on one trip we recorded nearly 50 species in 4 hours. We also run dedicated pelagic trips from Falmouth spotting large flocks (80+) of manx shearwater; auks; storm petrel (Wilson's do occasionally show up) and skua. Most of these are only really best seen on a boat, especially storm petrels which flit around our boat! And also the best photo opportunities.
  • Birding Pal

    Local birders willing to show visiting birders around their area
  • Oriole Birding

    Over the years, we have amassed dozens of visits to Cornwall and return again this year as enthusiastic as ever. October is a fantastic time of year to be birding in this region, and many people travel to the Isles of Scilly at this time in the hope of vagrant land birds from North America will be swept across the Atlantic by the fast moving depressions typical of the time of year. However, West Cornwall is also excellently placed to receive these arrivals but has the added bonus of no crowds, and a real opportunity to find our own birds! Its enviable geographic position, sheltered valleys and many headlands ensure that there is always something of interest to be found.
Trip Reports

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • 2007 [03 March] – David & Amanda Mason

    Started overcast and cool, quite ideal really for our five and a half hour journey to the south west of England. We took our time and arrived at our destination The Ship Inn at Lerryn, near Lostwithiel at around 4.30pm. The village car park is situated on the bank of a small tributary to the River Fowey and as we parked we noticed 3 Little Egret feeding in the shallows nearby along with a few ducks and gulls. The Ship is less than a one minute walk from this car park and has no off road parking of its own…
Places to Stay

Click on WAND to see Fatbirder’s Trip Report Repository…

  • Bosavern House

    Bosavern House is ideally situated for access to the key birdwatching sites of the Lands End peninsula, which is renowned for migrants and, in particular, the number of unusual species which arrive at different times of the year.
  • Chy Carne Camping Park

    Chalets, Caravans or your own gear
  • Hawksland Mill

    Set in a quiet country lane and surrounded by farmland, the Mill lies within easy reach of many beautiful sandy beaches and has convenient road access to all parts of Cornwall. Hawksland Mill is three miles from the town of Wadebridge, which has good shopping facilities, and five miles from the ancient fishing port of Padstow.
  • Lindford House Holiday Cottages

    Self catering holiday cottages, set in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in the Coverack and Helford River areas, on the Lizard Peninsula, in picturesque South Cornwall UK.
  • Mount Haven Hotel

    The Mount Haven Hotel & Restaurant is situated in its own grounds on the outskirts of the ancient market town of Marazion, overlooking the sea, and just a few minutes` walk from the beach. There are superb panoramic views over Mount`s Bay and the world-famous St. Michael`s Mount from the gardens and car park, as well as from most of the bedrooms.
  • Mullion Cove Hotel

    Mullion Cove Hotel stands in a spectacular position on the cliffs above the working harbour of Mullion Cove. Built at the behest of the Cornish Railway at the turn of the century, it commands spectacular views along thirty miles of glorious coastline. From the lounge, look down to the harbour with its jetties, fish cellars and sandy beaches and along the dramatic coastline of Britain`s most southerly peninsula.
  • Parc an Grouse

    Parc an Grouse is a B&B situated overlooking the ocean just a short walk from St.Keverne village in Cornwall. Ideal spot for Birding on the Helford river or walking the coastal path
  • Pencubitt House

    Pencubitt is somewhere special
  • The Cartwheel

    The Cartwheel offers Luxury Cornwall holiday accommodation in Millbrook Cornwall on the fabulous Rame Peninsula. The Cartwheel is a newly refurbished Luxury Cornish holiday bungalow featuring
Other Links
  • Bird Box View

    Welcome to Bird Box View the home of nature cameras in Cornwall
  • Bird watching in Cornwall

    Cornwall, a long, narrow peninsula that juts out into the Atlantic like the toe of a boot, and the Isles of Scilly, an archipelago of five inhabited and some fifty uninhabited islands lying twenty eight miles off the coast of Land's End, are the envy of the British birdwatching community for the countless unexpected species that turn up each year in spring and autumn, migrants blown off course or overshooting their target.
  • Birds of Cornwall

    The birds found in Cornwall are mainly the same as those throughout the British Isles. However Cornwall's coastal environment, and its location in the far south-west of Britain makes the area attractive to many rare migrants.
  • Birdwatching in West Cornwall

    Welcome to our Birdwatching Page. West Cornwall is renowned for rare birds, and several top birders live in the area. We are developing this site daily, and intend to provide a comprehensive Internet resource for birding in West Cornwall. We will be restricting the area covered to the District of Penwith - but will bring hot news from outside! When a rare bird is found in the area, location details and travel directions will be put on this site, together with weather and - as and when possible - images. Any bird reports from the area will be most welcome, and will be included in the round-ups.
  • Camelbirder

    This website is dedicated to the Natural History of the Camel Estuary in North Cornwall – includes latest bird sightings.
  • Cornish Birds of Prey Centre

    The Cornish Birds of Prey Centre is situated on the A39 at Winnards Perch, halfway between St. Columb Major and Wadebridge and approximately 12 miles from Newquay in Cornwall. We have here at the Centre over 50 birds of prey for you to see, many of which take part in regular flying displays and participate in hands-on experiences. We are able to cater for all ages and disabilities, as the Centre is set on open ground with a gentle slope and stunning views
  • Cornwall Bird Atlas

    For many years there has been no way of bringing together the diverse records relating to many of the breeding and non-breeding bird species. Randomly collected records of common breeding and wintering species have been a particular cause for concern and there has been much discussion about the best way to handle such records
  • Cornwall Birding

    Welcome to Cornwall Birding, the website dedicated to Birds, Birders and Birding in Cornwall. We aim to provide up to date information and images of rare birds when they occur and support important ornithological projects in the county. We welcome photos and articles to do with birds and birding in Cornwall as well as your sightings and trip reports
  • Operation Chough

    The last true Cornish chough died in 1973, leaving the county devoid of its ‘national’ symbol. Over the next few years, occasional choughs would be reported, blown in by storms from Brittany or Wales. One pair was observed by Richard Meyer in Rame, near Plymouth, from November 1986 until January 1987. The birds did not form a permanent attachment, and when they left, Cornwall was once again without choughs.
  • Scillonian Pelagic Trips

    Warmed by the Gulf Stream, buffeted by the Atlantic, relying on sea and air links with the mainland, the unique Isles of Scilly are a world apart. Populated by a friendly community of just over 2000 islanders, sub-tropical Scilly has tranquillity and a quality of life long lost to less isolated places. Exotic plants and wild flowers, ancient cairns and crumbling castles, sparkling white sands by an azure sea - all just 28 miles from Land`s End in the south-west corner of the UK.
  • Screech Owl Sanctuary

    The sanctuary provides care and rehabilitation for wild sick and injured owls within Cornwall, and where possible ensures their safe release back to the wild when they are fully recovered, and if permanently disabled a comfortable home shall be provided in a suitable environment.
  • Adam Hartley - Pendeen Birding

    I used to be a birder in my youth but rather lost interest in my teens as other things became more interesting. However recently I've rediscovered this interest and have become quite keen or "obsessed" is how my very lovely wife (VLW) puts it. I'm a keen blogger and endeavour to take photos whenever possible often through digiscoping.
  • Andy Pay - Windmill Farm Nature Reserve

    Last Updated 2012 - The ramblings of the warden of this reserve on the Lizard peninsula in west Cornwall, UK, comprising 205 acres of grassland, heathland, arable fields, willow scrub and ponds. It is jointly owned by Cornwall Bird-Watching and Preservation Society and Cornwall Wildlife Trust. Interspersed with the latest news and sightings you will find my retrospective blog outlining the development of the reserve. Please note this is a personal, unofficial account and is not necessarily endorsed by the owners.
  • Chough Junior Birders

    Follow Bob Bosisto and Pete Roseveare as we go birding and ringing in Cornwall and beyond...
  • Dan Chaney - Stithians Reservoir Birding

    Mainly intended as a way to communicate bird sightings for Stithians Reservoir, showcase what a reasonably good place it is, post a few bird piccies up, provide links and cutting insights…
  • Derek Julian - Camel Estuary Wildlife

    This site documents the wildlife of the Camel Estuary and the surrounding area. If you find any errors in this website please contact me so that I can correct it.
  • Devon and Cornwall Police Wildlife Crimes Group

    e.g. This is Matthew Gonshaw. If you see him near ANY birds nests then let the police know immediately!! Gonshaw is a serial egg collector and has an ASBO banning him from entering Scotland in the breeding season for the next 10 years! Gonshaw has already served four prison sentences for stealing birds eggs and with a ban from Scotland, it is thought that he may target other areas of the country, including the South West. Gonshaw is a major target…
  • Ilya Maclean - Pirate Birding

    A Scotsman, formally exciled in Norfolk, I now reside in Cornwall. Having recently escaped from the clutches of a well-known ornithological charity, I'm now free to call a scopac-wearing chump a chimp if I want to (even though I'm tempted to get one) and mouth-off as I wish. Join me as I leave the pagering masses behind and set out to attempt to penetrate the secret world of the Cornish birding scene.
  • Paul Freestone - Ornitholosism II

    Personal birding blog of Cornwall based birder and guide Paul Freestone…
  • Trevor Moore - A&T Birding

    Last updated 2014 …Before we started this blog we had a GS Woodpecker visiting the garden. We've been in this house a few years and later in 2008 he/she started to visit…
  • Trevor Moore - St Austell Baywatch

    Last updated 2014 - Natural World. Birds, Animals, Flora, Fauna and Fungi around St Austell Bay. Black Head to Gribbin Head…
Photographers & Artists
  • Artist - Ian Griff Griffiths

    Wildlife paintings; mainly birds of artist Griff, who lives and paints in Cornwall originally from Yorkshire. He will be featured in Birds illustrated, Wildscape and Artists and illustrated magazine
  • Photographer - Mark Whittaker - Fat Wagtail Photography

    Mark Whittaker, St.Austell, Cornwall, United Kingdom - I'm 27 years old and very much into wildlife especially birds. I currently work as a Falconer & Owl Welfare Officer at the Screech Owl Sanctuary at Indian Queens and have been doing so for 8 years. Very much into photography and hoping to incorporate this passion into my blog
  • Photographer - Richard M Birchett

    Pictures taken of Wildlife from around Cornwall and just beyond! By Richard M Birchett

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