As summertime approaches and the weather warms up, Brits will flock to the seaside and coastline to make the most of the summer season. This doesn’t mean you have to stop birdwatching though! There is a huge variety of shoreline birds and seabirds in the UK to spot on your travels this summer season. Take a look at our guide to spotting seabirds below!
Common seabirds to look out for and where to find them
Although there are a wide number of seabirds in the UK, here are our top picks to keep an eye out for.
The iconic puffin can identified by its clown-like look, with orange legs and it’s bright, multi coloured bill. They are relatively small birds, standing at around a foot tall with a wingspan of up to 63cm. There are 580,000 breeding pairs in the UK, but with this population generally being confined to a few specific areas, the puffin population is being monitored closely.
You can spot the colourful puffin year round, primarily on the North East coast of England and Scotland. To increase your chances of seeing a puffin, visit one of the RSPB’s reserves where breeding colonies are found.
The great skua has been called the ‘pirate of the seas’. These large birds are known to dive bomb humans who get a little too close for their liking, and will gladly harass other bird species to get food.
The great skua arrives in the UK in around April to breed, and can be sighted in rocky coastal areas and moorland, particularly in the northernmost isles of the UK, until they head south for the winter in November.
Gannets are easily spotted by their yellow head, which distinctly contrasts with their bright white body. You’ll often see them gliding close to the water in small groups. Although there are a reasonably large number of nests in the UK, these are concentrated in just a couple of areas. South Wales, Southern Ireland and East Scotland are the best places to spot these magnificent birds all year round.
Manx shearwater, or ‘puffinus puffinus’ as they are formally known, is a small black shearwater with a white chest and belly. It has an unusual flying pattern, where it will make a rapid number of wing flaps and then glide or ‘shear’ over the water. You’ll be able to spot the manx shearwater along the coast during spring and summer, or all year round if you head to one of their offshore breeding colonies.
The arctic tern can be spotted from a distance by their bright red bill and black head. The arctic tern is known for having the longest migration distance of any bird, commonly travelling up to 22,000 miles each year! Look out for these birds along the northern coasts of Scotland, England and Wales during the summer months as the take rest and refuge whilst embarking on their long migration.
Bird spotting tips for British seabirds
It is becoming increasingly difficult to spot seabirds in the UK, due to declining population numbers. This has been caused by a number of factors such as increased coastal fishing and plastic pollution. Find out how you can help to protect wild birds in our guide.
To help your chances of spotting our beautiful seabirds, you should:
- Visit RSPB reserves where there are breeding colonies of seabirds
- Take a pair of binoculars to spot birds nesting in cliffs
- Be quiet and patient
- Stay a good distance away from birds, so you don’t disturb their habitat
- Keep an eye out for birds on the water when travelling on ferries or boats
If you do spot a sea bird, make sure to log it on our Birdspotter App, and discuss your findings with other ‘twitchers’ in the forum.
Even if you’re not heading to the coast this summer, you can still spot birds in your garden by putting our food, such as our mixed bird seed for your local birds.