Red-billed Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax ©Bob Bosisto Website

The recording area of Cornwall (areas 1 & 2 in the Watsonian system) is co-terminus with the ceremonial county in the southwest of England of the same name. Bounded by the Celtic Sea to the north and west and the English Channel to the south, it has the longest coastline of any English county at 1,086 km (675 miles). To the east, the River Tamar forms the border with Devon. After Falmouth, the largest settlements are Newquay, St Austell and Cornwall’s capital and sole city Truro. 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. It includes the southernmost point on mainland Great Britain, Lizard Point, and is therefore exposed to the full force of the prevailing winds that blow in from the Atlantic Ocean. It forms a large part of the Cornwall National Landscape.

The north and south coasts have different characteristics. The north coast on the Celtic Sea, part of the Atlantic Ocean, is more exposed and therefore has a wilder nature. The High Cliff, between Boscastle and St Gennys, is the highest sheer-drop cliff in Cornwall at 223 metres (732 ft). The national landscape also includes Bodmin Moor. The county is rural, with an area of c.3,500 km2 (1,375 square miles) and population approaching 600,000. Whilst it is an English county it is recognized as one of the sic Celtic nations and the birthplace of the Cornish language.

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. There are two river estuaries on the north coast: Hayle Estuary and the estuary of the River Camel. The south coast, dubbed the ‘Cornish Riviera’, is more sheltered and there are several broad estuaries.

It is thought tin was mined here as early as the Bronze Age, and copper, lead, zinc and silver have all been mined in Cornwall. Old mine workings remain a feature of the Cornish landscape. There are also extensive deposits of China Clay, especially in the area to the north of St Austell, and the extraction of this remains an important industry. The uplands are surrounded by more fertile, mainly pastoral farmland. Near the south coast, deep wooded valleys provide sheltered conditions for flora that like shade and a moist, mild climate.

Birding Cornwall

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. Chough, Peregrine and Stonechat redress this to some extent.

Cornwall has the mildest and one of the sunniest climates of the United Kingdom, as a result of its oceanic setting and the influence of the Gulf Stream. 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
  • Bude Marshes & 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: Sociable Lapwing, Long-billed Dowitcher, Black-winged Stilt.
  • Camel Estuary

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

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    Between the confluence of the Truro and Fal rivers and the open sea, good for winter sea-duck, divers and grebes, including 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.
  • Marazion Marsh

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    Now a good place for herons, including regular Cattle Egret, Great Egret and occasional Night Heron & Purple Heron.
  • Par Beach and Pool

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

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

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    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: Hermit Thrush, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Skykes Warbler.
  • Rame Peninsula

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    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. Still a good site. Resident population of Cirl Bunting. Recent scarcities include Ortolan Bunting and Melodius Warbler, Wilson’s Petrel.
  • St Ives Island

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    Excellent for Skuas , Sabine’s Gull and Leach’s Petrel.
  • 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

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    Good for waders again. Recent rarities include Pacific Golden Plover, Lesser Scaup and Bufflehead.
  • The Lizard

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    There are many good valleys for migrants around this huge peninsula. Best known spots now Kynance area, Caethillian and Church Cove. Recent rarities include Red-eyed Vireo, Northern Harrier and Rufous Bushchat.
  • Bob Bosisto


  • Dan Chaney


County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 450

    County Bird - Chough Pyrrhocorax pyrrhocorax
    [moreover it has recently started to breed in Cornwall again]
  • Cornwall Birds County List

    All birds that are BOU Category A, B or C that have been recorded (and accepted by the relevant committee) are listed below. The county list (as at March 2024) stands at 450. The contact for this page is The last year of occurrence is given for some of the rarer species. The various letters and symbols accompanying the species names refer to their status on a county and national level as outlined below:
Useful Reading

  • A Lizard Bird Diary

    | A Study of the Birds of the South Lizard Peninsula, Cornwall: 1970-2015 | Written & Published by Brian Cave | 2016 | Paperback | 160 pages, colour photos, colour & b/w illustrations, colour maps | ISBN: 9781527200401 Buy this book from
  • 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 | Out of Print | 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 | Out of Print | 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
  • Where to Watch Wildlife in Cornwall and the Isles of Scilly

    | By David Chapman | Tor Mark Press | 2019 | Paperback | 216 pages, 276 colour photos | ISBN: 9780850252002 Buy this book from
  • Chough Monitoring

  • Cornwall Birds

    Welcome to Cornwall Birds (CBWPS), the bird club of Cornwall. Whatever your level of interest in birds, the Society offers you opportunities to develop that interest and to get the most out of birdwatching in Cornwall. Becoming a member helps us to continue our conservation and education work across the region.
  • 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.
  • RSPB Kernow Local Group

    Check out our blog posts for upcoming events, fill out the form to become a new member or drop us an email with any ideas, questions or sightings. We look forward to hearing from you.

Abbreviations Key

  • *Cornwall Birds - Reserves Information

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  • *Cornwall Wildlife Trust

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    Visit one of our 55 nature reserves
  • LNR Baker's Pit

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    The reserve is also an important site for numerous birds. Whitethroats visit regularly in summer (having flown from sub-Saharan Africa), while merlins, hen harriers and peregrines all visit during winter months. In late summer, much of the reserve bursts with vibrant yellow as western gorse (one of two gorse species found in Cornwall) flowers. Western gorse is important for various insects and birds, including the stonechat and linnet.
  • LNR Bartinney

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    This is a particularly important site for birdlife, the majority of which nest on or near to the ground, so please ensure dogs are kept under close control. The cuckoo is a regular early summer visitor to Bartinney. You may be lucky enough to spot one during the spring amongst the grassland, feeding on large hairy caterpillars, which are poisonous to other birds. Cuckoos are well-known brood parasites; the females lay their eggs in the nests of other birds, particularly meadow pipits. Just some of the other birds that can be seen here include: stonechat and linnet (year-round); skylark (spring/summer); snipe and woodcock (autumn/winter).
  • LNR Hawkes Wood

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    This is a delightful oak woodland with two streams and a quarry. The oak coppice is characteristic of many Cornish woods. It is an exceptional area for woodland birds, including the nuthatch, who runs up and down trees when looking for nuts, seeds and insects. Tawny owls can also be seen here, as well as pipistrelle.
  • LNR Lower Lewdon

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    This reserve is contained within a large triangular enclosure which forms part of a steep-sided valley. The site has many springs, so a large part of the land is waterlogged for much of the year. It is a mosaic of culm grassland and woodland, crisscrossed with rides and paths. The marbled white butterfly has been in decline in recent years, but can be seen here from late June through to August. Long grass, particularly red fescue, provides a sympathetic habitat for these attractive butterflies.The willow tit is a scarce bird in Cornwall and a speciality of the culm, more or less restricted to wet willow woodlands.
  • LNR Middle Amble Marsh

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    Jointly owned with Cornwall Birdwatching Society, Middle Amble Marsh has a mosaic of fen and wet grassland which benefits a wealth of wildlife that uses the site. A track from the entrance leads to a bird hide where you can view the reserve. In the spring and summer the site is alive to the sound of cetti’s warblers, reed warblers and sedge warblers, whilst broad-bodied chasers and common blue damselflies skirt along ditches. Through the autumn and winter months the site is a haven for wildfowl, including teal and wigeon. At any time of the year there is a good chance of seeing barn owls traversing the site as dusk approaches.
  • LNR Nansmellyn Marsh

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    This reserve consists of one of the few remaining untouched areas of reedbed in Cornwall. The common reed is found here, as well as numerous bird species.
  • LNR Ropehaven Cliffs

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    This reserve stretches from the high tide line to the coastal path and has a range of habitats, including coastal woodland. Many bird species are present, including fulmar who lay their eggs on rocky cliff ledges and house martins that feed high above the cliffs.
  • 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…
  • LNR Tamar Estuary

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    The Tamar Estuary complex is a richly rewarding area from which to watch birds, particularly through the autumn and winter months. Waders and ducks on migration, seeking places to rest and refuel, regularly drop into the estuaries and, from the late summer onwards, the area comes alive with birds returning from their northerly breeding grounds to spend the winter months in the warmer, sheltered waters of the South West. Heron, little egret, shelduck and oystercatcher are resident on the estuary all year, whilst during the spring and autumn migrations you may see green sandpiper and whimbrel. You may also be lucky and catch a glimpse of one of our less common visitors such as spoonbill, spotted redshank or red-breasted merganser.
  • LNR 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.
  • NNR Golitha Falls

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    The reserve is also home to dormice, which reside in the ancient hazel coppice. Noctule, brown long-eared and lesser horseshoe bats have been recorded. The river supports healthy populations of both salmon and sea trout. Otter are often seen exploring the falls.
  • NNR Goss Moor

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    The River Fal and associated wetlands support populations of eel and brook lamprey. Over 70 species of birds breed on the site, with others arriving on the reserve to spend winter. These include bittern, great grey shrike and hen harrier.
  • NNR The Lizard

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    The Lizard peninsula, near Helston in Cornwall, covers 15,000 hectares and is the most southerly part of the British mainland and over 250 species of national or international importance are found here.
  • 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…
Sightings, News & Forums
  • 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.
  • Cornwall Birdwatching Tours

    Tour Operator
    At Cornwall Birdwatching Tours we provide planned and bespoke guided birdwatching experiences across the South-West and other parts of the UK.
  • Oriole Birding

    Tour Operator
    This new Spring birding adventure centres on Devon and West Cornwall, an area we know very well after many years of both spring and autumn tours to the region. Here we will enjoy a mix of migration-based birding, among the secluded valleys and headlands of the Penwith district, with some top breeding birds on the fringes of Dartmoor.
Trip Reports
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Pencubitt House

    Pencubitt is somewhere special
Other Links
  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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.
  • Chough Junior Birders

    Follow Bob Bosisto and Pete Roseveare as we go birding and ringing in Cornwall and beyond...
  • 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.
  • swopticsphoto

    SEAWATCHING in Cornwall is my main interest in birding, mainly because the county lends itself perfectly to an incredible passage of seabirds and a its also a brilliant opportunity to find your own birds.
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

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