Yellowhammer Emberiza citrinella ©Nigel Blake Website

Wiltshire recording area (areas 7 & 8 in the Watsonian system) is co-terminus with the ceremonial county of the same name in the southwest of England. Wiltshire (abbreviation Wilts) has an area of just under 3,500 km² (c. 1,300 square miles). It is landlocked and It borders Gloucestershire to the north, Oxfordshire to the northeast, Berkshire to the east, Hampshire to the southeast, Dorset to the south, and Somerset to the west. The largest settlement is Swindon, followed by the City of Salisbury, Chippenham and Trowbridge; the county town.

It is characterised by its undulating high chalk downland and wide valleys; the North Wessex Downs in the east, Salisbury Plain in the centre and Cranbourne Chase in the south. Salisbury Plain is noted for being the location of the World Heritage site of Stonehenge and the Avebury stone circles and other ancient landmarks, and as a training area for the British Army which has, ironically, aided conservation.

The rolling plateau of chalk downland is bordered by lowland in the northwest and southeast. The chalk downland (an internationally threatened habitat) is split into two areas by the rich Vale of Pewsey. To the north are the smaller, higher Marlborough Downs, whilst to the south is the more extensive Salisbury Plain.

The county is mainly agricultural with pasture for cattle, sheep or pigs, and large fields for cereals. The major rivers are the two Avons. The first of these runs westward through the county of Avon & Bristol and into the Severn Channel. The second drains to the south into Hampshire and enters the English Channel at Bournemouth.

Birding Wiltshire

Although the lack of proximity to the sea restricts the range of birds somewhat, for the careful birdwatcher there is still much of interest to be found. Some of the best places are listed below.

Top Sites
  • Braydon Forest

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    A remnant of ancient woodland, with the resulting range of species. This wood is a Wiltshire Wildlife Trust reserve, though the others nearby are also worthy of a look. The wood also contains a small lake that has been known to attract rarities on passage.
  • Cotswold Water Park

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    This collection of water filled gravel pits lies on the border between Wiltshire and Gloucestershire. Disturbance from water-sports can be a problem, but mostly the birds move from one pit to another so a continual sweep will generally produce a good variety of waterfowl and waders, including the occasional rarity.
  • Great Ridge

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    Ancient oak woodlands which contain a better than average selection of woodland birds including nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus, woodcock Scolopax rusticola and nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos.
  • Grovely Woods

    InformationSatellite View
    Ancient oak woodlands which contain a better than average selection of woodland birds including nightjar Caprimulgus europaeus, woodcock Scolopax rusticola and nightingales Luscinia megarhynchos.
  • Marlborough Downs

    This area of chalk downland takes up (along with Salisbury Plain) most of the area of Wiltshire. This site is more easily accessible of the two but suffers relatively more form human disturbance and contains less species.
  • Salisbury Plain

    InformationSatellite View
    This area of chalk downland (along with malborough Downs) takes up most of the area of Wiltshire. It is used extensively by the army for gunnery ranges and tank training grounds and as a result access is heavily restricted. Species include hen harriers Circus cyaneus, great grey shrike Lanius excubitor during winter and breeding quail Coturnix coturnix and stone curlews Burhinus oedicnemus.
  • The By Brook

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    A picturesque valley much visited by tourists, but which contains some great woodland birds. The main attractions are the dippers Cinlus cinlus and kingfishers Alcedo atthis that breed here and that can afford some marvellous views. (The map ref here is for Castle Combe, just one of the places on the brook. but the one most likely to have parking)
  • Woods around Stourton

    Satellite View
    The woods by the National Trust village of Stourton are still relatively unexplored, but have been shown to contain a large selection of birds rare elsewhere in the county. Crossbills Loxia curvirostra, woodcock Scolopax rusticola, nightjars Caprimulgus europaeus, lesser spotted woodpeckers Dendrocopos minor, grasshopper warblers Locustella naevia and firecrests Regulus ignicapillus can all be found at various times of the year, though patience and thorough searching may be required!
County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 332

    The total of species recorded in Wiltshire currently stands at 332 species as of December 2020.
  • The Wiltshire List

    Checklist PDF
    The Wiltshire List is the official list of wild birds recorded in Wiltshire and is maintained by the Records Panel on behalf of WOS.
Useful Reading

  • Birds of Wiltshire

    | Edited by J Ferguson-Lees, P Castle and P Cranswick | Wiltshire Ornithological Society | 2007 | Hardback | 848 pages, 300 maps, 189 drawings, 33 colour photos | ISBN: 9780955527005 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Where to Watch Birds in Somerset, Gloucestershire & Wiltshire

    | By Ken Hall | Christopher Helm | 2019 | 4th Edition | Paperback | 314 Pages | b/w illustrations, b/w maps | ISBN: 9781472912381 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Wiltshire Birds

    | By Stephen Palmer | John Osborne | 1991 | Paperback | 84 pages, 14 photos, 17 line illustrations | ISBN: 9780860802235 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Great Bustard Group

    The Great Bustard Project - re-introduction into the UK
  • RSPB South Wiltshire Local Group

    The group's aim is to support actively the work of the RSPB in South Wiltshire and to involve RSPB members and the wider public in the Society's conservation, public affairs, education, fundraising and other activities. We have monthly indoor meetings (except June, July and August) and have at least 2 field trips a month ranging from gentle local walks to more distant locations.
  • Wiltshire Archaeological and Natural History Society

    The Society, which is a Registered Charity, administers its internationally important Museum and Library at Devizes. It arranges a summer programme of field meetings and excursions to interesting buildings, exhibitions and sites, as well as extended visits to historic centres in Britain, which in recent years have included York, Lincoln and Chester. In winter, a lecture programme covers archaeology, art, history and natural history…
  • Wiltshire Ornithological Society

    Wiltshire Ornithological Society was formed on November 30th, 1974, and has grown in recent years to more than 500 members. Our mission is to encourage and pursue the study, recording and conservation of birds in Wiltshire.
  • Wiltshire Wildlife Trust

    The vision of the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust is a county richer in wildlife, managed on sustainable principles. We are Wiltshire`s largest independent voluntary organisation concerned for wildlife and countryside.

Abbreviations Key

  • *WWT Reserves

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    Nature Reserves
  • Cotswolds Water Park

    WebsiteSatellite View
    The Cotswold Water Park is an excellent birding destination throughout the year; ranging from 20,000 wintering waterbirds, to 21,000 wintering gulls, to vast numbers of breeding warblers along with Nightingales, Little Ringed Plover and Common Tern, there is always something of interest here!
  • LNR Clouts Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Clouts Wood is situated between Markham Banks nature reserve and King’s Farm Wood and Diocese Meadows. Combine a walk through all four areas to enjoy contrasting landscapes. A walk through this Site of Special Scientific Interest takes you from stream-soaked valley floor, up steep slopes to level land at the top. You will find mossy gnarled boles, splendid spreading trees and abandoned water cress beds.
  • LNR Green Lane Woodland Complex, including Green Lane Wood and Biss Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    This ancient oak woodland was left to us in 1991 by its previous owner who had lived in a cabin in the wood. In 1998 we purchased the wildflower meadow next to it. The wood connects with our Biss Wood nature reserve and Green Lane Nature Park – why not enjoy a walk through them all. The open part of the wood is coppiced, encouraging woodland flowers to grow. They include Solomon’s seal, stinking Iris and greater butterfly orchid.
  • LNR Hat Gate

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    We bought this small section of dismantled railway in Marlborough from British Rail in 1988 for £1. It has a variety of common plants and birds such as whitethroat and garden warbler.
  • LNR Jones's Mill the Vera Jeans Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    The reserve has ditches, ridges and furrows - evidence of its past use as water meadows. It is home to wildlife that thrives in wet conditions - water voles, dragonflies, the elusive water shrew and birds such as kingfisher, snipe and heron. Great horsetail grows in the alder carr; their bristles have a high silica content making them look like bottle brushes.
  • LNR Langford Lakes Nature Reserve

    WebpageSatellite View
    Nestled in the Wylye Valley between Salisbury and Warminster, Langford Lakes nature reserve is an ideal place for bird watching. The four lakes provide a vital stopping off point and resident habitat for about 150 different bird species. The reserve has a relaxing atmosphere with good level paths and you can enjoy watching wildfowl from five hides overlooking the lakes. You may even see some rarities, such as osprey. Residents include kingfisher, water rail and gadwall.
  • LNR Lower Moor Farm

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    Lower Moor Farm (LMF) opened in 2007 and is the gateway to Clattinger Farm, Oaksey Moor Farm Meadow and Sandpool nature reserves. From LMF you can walk into the other reserves and explore a landscape of fascinating contrasts. The reserve is a mosaic of three lakes, two brooks, ponds and wetland scrapes linked together by boardwalks, ancient hedges, woodland and meadows. The lakes were created by gravel extraction in the 1970s.
  • LNR Swindon Lagoons

    WebpageSatellite View
    Watch sand martins, swallows and reed buntings hunt for insects over the water. In winter see if you can spot shoveler duck, little egret and tufted duck on the water while snipe and sandpipers probe the mud for insects. Look out for tennis ball-sized knots of woven grasses at the tops of long grass – the nests of harvest mice.
  • NNR Langley Wood

    InformationSatellite View
    It’s also an excellent habitat for woodland birds including cuckoo, hawfinch, nightjar, redstart, wood warbler, spotted flycatcher, lesser spotted woodpecker and tree pipit.
  • NNR Parsonage, Pewsey & Prescombe Downs

    InformationSatellite View
    Anthills cover the old downland. Green woodpeckers feed on the anthills and they are the favoured site for plants such as thyme and rockrose. The site also contains areas of scrub and these support birds such as yellowhammer and turtle dove, with lapwing and grey and red-legged partridge breeding on the downland.
  • NNR Wylye Down

    InformationSatellite View
    The reserve is most impressive during spring and summer when the rich diversity of wildflowers are in bloom.
  • RSPB Garston Wood

    WebpageSatellite View
    Meander along the paths that criss-cross this ancient woodland and look for signs of Badgers and Fallow Deer. Listen out for Nightingales and spot Marsh Tits, or enjoy swathes of Bluebells in spring.
  • RSPB Winterbourne Downs

    WebpageSatellite View
    We’re helping to transform fields once used for crops into flowering grasslands. The wildlife is showing its appreciation – plenty of bugs have moved in to make the most of the nectar-rich fields. Plus, we’ve built south-facing butterfly banks, packed with the favourite flowers of the Small Blue and Brown Argus. Keeping them company, you’ll spot Skylarks, Lapwings, Yellowhammers, Linnets and Grey Partridges making the most of the buzzing fields and healthy hedgerows.
Sightings, News & Forums
  • WOS Sightings

    Recent Sightings
  • Wiltshire Bird News

    Tweeting news of rare and interesting birds in Wiltshire. Bird news only
Guides & Tour Operators
  • The Cotswold Birdwatching Company

    Tour Operator
    Our day trips are organised to offer the chance to celebrate the area’s amazing wildlife and fantastic scenery. Maybe you have species that you would particularly like to see or would just like a bird-filled day out. Whatever you require, we always try our best to maximise our time in the field. We appreciate that people love to see new species and are delighted to make this happen.
Places to Stay
  • The Old Post House B&B

    The Old Post House is a 350 year old Grade II listed character house situated in the village of Great Wishford, approximately half-way between Stonehenge (7 miles), and Salisbury (5 miles). The village is well away from the traffic and crowds in an area of greenbelt conservation and outstanding natural beauty
  • Wildbrook Grange

    Widbrook Grange, home of resident owners Jane and Peter Wragg is an elegant 250 year old Georgian country house hotel peacefully located in 11 acres of grounds on the outskirts of the ancient medieval town of Bradford-on-Avon
Other Links
  • West Wilts Ringing Group

    Ringing and recovery activities of the West Wilts Ringing Group
  • Wildlife of Wiltshire

    Facebook Page
    Discussion etc
  • Bob Philpott - CWP Birds

    This site publishes records from the Cotswold Water Park of all species (irrespective of county boundaries or rarity). Records are forwarded to the CWPT Database and then on to Local Record Centres.
  • Malcolm Royal - Wiltshire Birder - A Birding Diary

    Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Malcolm Royal and I have lived in Chiseldon for over twenty years. I have been interested in birds for many years but have only been birding in the proper sense since 2008. I still class myself as a casual birder with a lot to learn. I have grandly titled this blog as wiltshirebirder but I know that I am only a minnow in the pool of fine birders of this county. So please forgive my delusions of grandeur…
Photographers & Artists
  • Artist - Jonathan Pomroy

    Since leaving art college I have worked as a freelance wildlife and landscape artist. I have aimed to have three or four one man exhibitions each year and have really enjoyed exhibiting at such venues as Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust reserves Slimbridge, Arundel and The Wetland Centre at Barnes
  • Artist - Susan Shimeld

    Initially self-taught wildlife artist and life long lover of all things wild

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