Wales

Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus ©Chris Thomas Website

Fatbirder Revision 2024

Wales is divided into ‘Recording Areas’ that mostly follow the Watsonian system of ‘Vice-counties’. This has been done because that is how bird records are kept and conservation mostly organised. Each Wales page lists the vice-counties and explain which geo-political areas each cover.

Wales (Welsh: Cymru) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population of around three million people (2011) and has a total area of just over eight thousand square miles. It has over 1,680 miles of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate wetter than eastern Britain.

Wales has been described as a land of peaks and plateaux dissected by river valleys to which one must quickly add and a superb coastline. Although primarily upland, some 60% lies above the 500 foot (150m) contour, Wales is also a maritime country bounded on three sides by the sea.

Birding Wales

Wales has three national parks: Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast. It has five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; Anglesey, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, the Gower Peninsula, the Llŷn Peninsula, and the Wye Valley. The Gower Peninsula was the first area in the United Kingdom to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in 1956.

Forty two percent of the coastline of south and west Wales is designated as Heritage Coast, with 13 specific designated strips of coastline maintained by Natural Resources Wales (successor body to the Countryside Council for Wales).Wales’ wildlife is typical of Britain with several distinctions. Because of its long coastline Wales hosts a variety of seabirds. The coasts and surrounding islands are home to colonies of gannets, Manx shearwater, puffins, kittiwakes, shags and razorbills. In comparison, with 60% of Wales above the 150m contour, the country also supports a variety of upland habitat birds, including raven and ring ouzel. Birds of prey include the merlin, hen harrier and the red kite, a national symbol of Welsh wildlife. In total, more than 200 different species of bird have been seen at the RSPB reserve at Conwy, including seasonal visitors.

The bird of Wales is without question the Red Kite. For many years the only ones in Great Britain were the handful clinging on, and only just, in a few remote Welsh valleys. Its fortunes monitored, and protection provided, for almost a century by a dedicated band of watchers to whom we should be eternally grateful. Their efforts have been well rewarded for now one can enjoy watching Red Kites across much of the heartland of Wales.

These same inland valleys, often with superb woodlands, also have other specialities such as Redstarts, Wood Warblers, Pied Flycatchers and Ravens. On many streams and rivers Goosanders, Kingfishers, Grey Wagtails and Dippers can be seen while Little Ringed Plovers nest on some gravel banks.

There are fine estuaries for wildfowl and waders, the Dee and Severn shared with England, but others wholly Welsh like the Burry Inlet, the Dyfi and the secret creeks round Milford Haven. Then the wild rocky coasts haunt of Peregrine and Chough, and headlands both north and south from which one can marvel at passage seabirds. Last but certainly not least the magical Welsh islands. Indeed you cannot really claim to know birds in Wales until you have spent at least a night on Skokholm or Skomer to see and hear the Manx Shearwaters. After all perhaps half the worlds’ population of this remarkable seabird nests on these two Pembrokeshire islands.

Top Welsh Bird Watching SitesEveryone will have their own choice, so it has been extremely difficult to narrow it down to this list. You will find more detail on each Welsh county pages.

Contributors
  • David Saunders

    Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire | islandnaturalist@tesco.net

County Recorder
Number of Species
  • Number of bird species: 457

    National Bird - Red Kite Milvus milvus [There is not, as far as we know, a national bird for Wales - however, great prominence has been given over many decades to the fact that the UK's remnant population of Red Kites hung on in mid-wales long after the English and Scottish populations had been extirpated by man - surely then the Red Kite deserves to represent Wales] Thanks to introductions in England and Wales the population is even greater and more genetically diverse.
Checklist

  • Wales Checklist

    PDF Checklist
    Bird species recorded in the wild up to the end of 2023 and accepted by the relevant committee.
Useful Reading

  • Birds in Wales

    | By R Lovegrove, G Williams and I Williams | A&C Black | 2011 | Hardback | 350 pages, 100 line illus, 17 maps ISBN: 9781408137925 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Collins BTO Guide to British Birds

    | By Paul Sterry & Paul Stancliffe, Illustrated by Simon Gillings | Harper Collins | 2015 | Paperback | 320 pages, 1200+ colour photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps ISBN: 9780007551521 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • In Search of Birds in Mid-Wales

    | By Brian O'Shea & John Green | Paperback | 1992 | Artery Media Production ISBN: 9780951390900 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Birds of Wales / Adar Cymru

    | By Rhion Pritchard et al | Liverpool University Press | 2021 | Hardback | 585 pages, colour & b/w photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps | ISBN: 9781800859722 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Breeding Birds of North Wales | Adar Nythu Gogledd Cymru

    | Edited by Anne Brenchley, Geoff Gibbs, Rhion Pritchard & Ian M Spence | Hardback | Sep 2013 | Liverpool University Press | 448 pages, 200 colour photos and colour illustrations, colour distribution maps ISBN: 9781846318580 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • The Crossley ID Guide: Britain & Ireland

    | By Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens | Princeton University Press | Paperback | Oct 2013 | 304 Pages | 310 Plates with Colour Photos250 Colour Distribution Maps | ISBN: 9780691151946 Buy this book from NHBS.com
  • Where to Watch Birds in Wales

    | By David Saunders and Jon Green | Christopher Helm | 2008 | Paperback | 352 pages, 70 maps, 45 line drawings | Out of Print | ISBN: 9780713674842 Buy this book from NHBS.com
Museums & Universities
  • National Museum of Wales

    Website
    Database of the mounted animals available for loan at the National Museum & Galleries of Wales. This database has been created to provide information on the mounted animals that the museum holds which are suitable for loan. Information provided is limited to: the scientific name and hierarchy; the common name; the nature and condition of the specimen; and the donor/vendor. Images are limited at the moment but it is hoped to add more in the future. It is aimed at those wishing to see what the museum holds with a view to loaning specimens or wishing to see if we hold specimens collected by a certain individual or prepared by a particular taxidermist. Most of the specimens have little information on collection locality or date, although future versions will be updated as what information we have is checked.
Organisations
  • BTO Wales

    Webpage
    The BTO’s strength in Wales is a testimony to the efforts of volunteers. For many years, the BTO’s Honorary Wales Officer, John Lloyd, and our team of volunteer Regional Representatives have promoted the Trust’s work and led on training and recruiting birdwatchers to take part in surveys. We will be providing far more support with the opening of the BTO Cymru office at Bangor University. The office is staffed by Dr. Rachel Taylor, Senior Research Ecologist, and Kelvin Jones, Development Officer.
  • Biodiversity Information Service for Powys & Brecon Beacons National Park

    Website
    The Biodiversity Information Service provides a mechanism for collating, sharing and utilising the wealth of biological data and knowledge, which exists in this part of Wales. The aim of BIS is to make information on wildlife, their habitats and important sites, readily available to those who need it. This will ensure that decisions, which may affect the natural heritage in the Powys and Brecon Beacons National Park area, are made with the best available knowledge.
  • Cofnod - the Local Environmental Records Centre for North Wales

    Website
    Cofnod is one of four Local Environmental Records Centres (LERCs) in Wales and forms part of the first national network of LERCs anywhere in the UK. Our name, which means 'a record' in Welsh, was chosen to reflect the importance of observing and recording wildlife, with the creation of a record being the starting point for all the data we hold. Our task is to bring together all these individual records into a centralised database, allowing us to have better knowledge of the environment in which we live.
  • Cymdeithas Adaryddol Cymru - Welsh Ornithological Society

    Website
    This home site of the Welsh Ornithological Society's purpose is to give a true and up to date reflection on the status of ornithology in Wales. Mailto:web@birdsinwales.org.uk
  • South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre - SEWBReC

    Website
    South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBReC) is the centre for the collation, management and dissemination of biodiversity data for South East Wales. Our aim is to make appropriate local biodiversity information available to all those who need it, to help ensure that decisions which affect local biodiversity are made using best available data.
  • Welsh Kite Trust

    Website
    Croeso Mawr – Welcome to the Welsh Kite Trust, the charity dedicated to the conservation of the red kite and other raptor species in Wales. Our achievements are made possible by high quality scientific research and monitoring, many thousands of hours of dedicated voluntary effort and the generous donations of our supporters.
  • West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre

    Website
    The West Wales Region has a wealth of protected sites including Wales’ only Biosphere reserve, the Dyfi Estuary, bordering Ceredigion and Gwynedd, and the only Marine Nature Reserve, around the island of Skomer off the Pembrokeshire coast.
Reserves

Abbreviations Key

  • NP Bannau Brycheiniog (Brecon Beacons)

    InformationSatellite View
    The Brecon Beacons is a mountain range in South Wales. In a narrow sense, the name refers to the range of Old Red Sandstone peaks which lie to the south of Brecon. Sometimes referred to as 'the central Beacons' they include South Wales' highest mountain, Pen y Fan. The range forms the central section of the Brecon Beacons National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog), a designation which also encompasses ranges both to the east and the west of 'the central Beacons'. This much wider area is also commonly referred to as 'the Brecon Beacons', and it includes the Black Mountains to the east as well as the similarly named but quite distinct Black Mountain to the west. The highest peaks include Fan Brycheiniog to the west and Pen y Fan in the central part. They share the same basic geology as the central range, and so exhibit many similar features, such as the north-facing escarpment and glacial features such as lakes and cwms (cirques) below the escarpment. They all fall within the border of the national park.
  • NP Pembrokeshire Coast

    InformationSatellite View
    It was established as a National Park in 1952, and is the only one in the United Kingdom to have been designated primarily because of its spectacular coastline.
  • NP Snowdonia

    InformationSatellite View
    Snowdonia (Welsh: Eryri) is a mountainous region in north west Wales and a national park of 823 square miles (2,130 km2) in area. The park is governed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, which is made up of local government and Welsh representatives, and its main offices are at Penrhyndeudraeth. Unlike national parks in other countries, Snowdonia (and other such parks in Britain) are made up of both public and private lands under central planning authority. While most of the land is either open or mountainous land, there is a significant amount of agricultural activity within the park.
Forums & Mailing Lists
  • North Wales Birding

    Twitter Feed
    A Website and Forum dedicated to Birdwatching in North Wales…
Guides & Tour Operators
  • Thousand Islands Expeditions

    Tour Operator
    Discover a magical island wilderness coupled with the fun and excitement of a true marine adventure. Take a boat trip and visit the Pembrokeshire Islands of Ramsey, Skomer or Grassholm and witness some of the most powerful currents in Britain, pass beneath some of the highest sea cliffs in Wales, see spectacular breeding colonies of hundreds of nesting seabirds. Ramsey Island is home to one of the UK's largest Atlantic Grey Seal colonies, hundreds of seal pups are born on Ramseys beaches from late August to October.
Places to Stay


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

  • Wales Cottages

    Accommodation
    Our family-run self catering holiday cottages in Wales are situated on the home farm of the historic Plas Cilybebyll Estate, between Brecon Beacons National Park and Gower Peninsula.
  • Welsh Cottages

    Accommodation
    Our 2001 brochure contains an excellent selection of over 200 holiday cottages in Pembrokeshire and North Wales providing a wide range of coast and country holiday locations and self-catering accommodation.
Other Links
  • Birds in Wales

    Website
    Members of the BBC Wales Nature Flickr group have taken photographs of over 80 species of birds in Wales. If you need to identify a bird you've seen, or you're a birdwatcher, a photographer, or just want to delight in Wales' wealth of wildlife, you can check out our great shots. This isn't an exhaustive collection of course, so if you've got photos you'd like to share, please join us on the group
  • Ringing and Birding in North Wales

    Website
    Fascinating BLOG with excellent pics of birds in the hand
Blogs
  • Alex H-Jones - Birding North Wales

    BLOG
    I am a keen birdwatcher and enjoy visiting local sites whether it is to patch or twitch for birds. I am currently in university but still find time to birdwatch around…

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