Rare birds in the UK: Who are they and where can you find them?
Bird watching can bring you the most incredible experiences, from complete tranquillity to amazing adventures. However, when you’ve spent hours exploring and all you are graced with is a common blue tit (as beautiful as they are), it can feel ever so slightly underwhelming. Just a little more research and calculation and you can view many of the rare birds in the UK. It is definitely worth the effort, so here is our guide to some of the rarest birds in the UK and exactly where to find them.
The capercaillie belongs to the grouse family and is one of Scotland’s rarest birds. They are well known for their sexual dimorphism, with the male doubling the female’s size. The males have mainly dark brown to grey feathers with a metallic green feather on the breast. Females, on the other hand, have a lighter tone to their brown feathers with silver barring throughout and some yellow colours to the breast.
To find the capercaillie, you’ll need to head to Strathspey and visit the pine woods to increase your chances of spotting these birds. This species requires open space for the males to perform their breeding display, as well as insect covered boggy environments for their young.
Curlews are brown-ish, grey birds with long legs, long beaks with pink on the underside and a notable white wedge on the rump, which is visible when in flight. You can find curlews in wetland and moorlands in the north of the UK, but they migrate throughout the island to the coast for winter.
The curlew is classified as red under the Birds of Conservation Concern. However, because of their varying positions across the UK throughout the year, there are some reasonable opportunities to spot this rare bird.
The goshawk is a stunning predator and is commonly known for its mid-flight acrobatics during hunting. Its appearance can vary depending on its age and subspecies, however, it is commonly recognisable with grey and brown feathers and is referred to as the ‘true hawk’. The goshawk can be found in its natural woodland habitat across the UK. This bird was considered extinct in the 19th century, and even though numbers have slightly increased since then, using a rare bird alert map is a great tool to help spot this bird of prey.
The hawfinch is arguably one of the rarest birds in the UK, which is unfortunate as its distinctively powerful bill is an incredible wonder to see in action. It has a distinctively thick orange head with black bordering the eyes. The bird can be found in mature woodland with varying tree species, so make sure to keep an eye out on bird news for updates – spotting this would be an extraordinary experience!
The lesser redpoll is a beautiful little bird belonging to the finch family. It can be found spectacularly balancing on thin branches, feeding on alder seeds. The species has become increasingly rare due to loss of habitation. Supporting these threatened birds with food for the garden is not only good for them, but good for you as it generates some great bird spotting opportunities. Suet for birds is a perfect food all year round for the lesser redpoll.
The bird can be found in common woodland areas, and if you do, adding your sighting to the Kennedy Bird Spotter is a great way to report bird sightings and to keep the bird watching community in the know.
Lesser spotted woodpecker
The lesser spotted woodpecker is a very rare bird in the UK. It is best identified by its black and white feather barring, with the addition of more defined black patches on the neck. It also reveals a white underbelly with slate grey legs. This bird favours a deciduous woodland, perfect for harvesting insects from the trees. It’s best to keep an eye out for rare bird alerts for this stunning woodpecker!
The nightingale (famous for its bird song) is another rare species, but can be found most likely in the south-east of England. This bird is slightly larger than a robin and is plain brown all round, apart from the more reddish hues running through the tail feathers and the white on the underneath. It favours thick vegetation from woodland with shrubbery.
Similarly to the lesser spotted woodpecker, the willow tit has become an extremely rare bird across the UK. The willow tit is distinguished by its sooty brown middle, a black cap and a white neck. This bird often excavates its own nesting hole, which is typically a decaying stump or tree. It gathers hair, fur and even feathers to build its nest – a great moment to spot this beautiful little bird.
While on your bird spotting adventures, if you come across these or any other equally amazing birds, check out our British Birds A-Z guide to find out more about your find!