Birds to see in winter in West Wales - West Wales Holiday Cottages
West Wales Holiday Cottages
01239 810033

Birds to see in winter in West Wales

Winter brings many visiting birds from the north and east in search of milder winters and greater abundance of food. These include many types of wading birds and ducks as well as less common species of swan. Some wader species like Sanderling, Dunlin, Turnstone and Grey Plover are divided about their preferences for overwintering: some of them choose to remain in the UK whilst others continue south to winter in Africa.

There are also species which we consider ‘resident’ in the UK due to there being a number which choose not to migrate; however, their cousins from summer breeding grounds further north will pass through in autumn on their way to wintering grounds further south. For example, Strumble Head near Fishguard is a popular place for observing passing flocks of migrant Skylarks, Finches, Starlings and Thrushes. These can be seen from mid-October.

Where to see water birds in winter

Waders are almost exclusively to be found on estuaries and mud flats close to the sea. Some ducks just like any water whilst others prefer the fresh water of lakes and reservoirs to brackish sea water.

Winter behaviour

The many resident inland birds often change their behaviour in winter; for example, Bluetits and Great Tits flock together with other members of the same family and are sometimes joined by two or three pairs of Long-Tailed Tits. Garden bird tables are attractive to these foraging parties, as they are to other species which might be elusive in the breeding season such as Nuthatch and Siskin - especially when food is scarce in severe weather.

Other birds which flock together in winter are Fieldfares and Redwings, both members of the thrush family. A covey of smallish, greyish birds flashing white or red under their wings, rising from fields in front of your vehicle will most likely turn out to be these. Or you might get quite close to them as they descend to a holly tree to strip it of berries.

Offshore birds

There are many pelagic birds around our coasts - that is those which spend most of their lives at sea. In fact, some spend so little time on land that their legs are barely functional! Examples are those belonging to the Petrel family such as Manx Shearwater and Fulmar. You will read on our Birds to see in Summer page that many nest on cliffs around our coast but spend the rest of the year further south. Some of those which breed here hang around our shores all year and sometimes appear close to the coast in stormy weather. These include Kittiwake, Fulmar and Gannet. Some, such as Terns and Skuas are only passing migrants to be seen spring and autumn. Trying to spot these birds provides a chance to make the most of some less than clement weather: get your togs on and head out to the mouth of one of the estuaries or a headland such as Strumble with a good pair of binoculars.

Cardigan Bay is a key wintering ground for divers (Red-throated and Great Northern) and Grebe (Great Crested and Red-necked). Mainly offshore are Scaup, Eider, Long-tailed duck; Common and Velvet Scoter. Several varieties of Skua and Tern can also be seen on autumn passage. Divers can also be seen in Carmarthen Bay.

Next

Grey Heron

Resident
A large bird with a very long neck which is often hunched up while it stands stock-still looking for fish. Huge wing span. Unmistakeable.
Size: 90cm
Where: Fresh water

Little Egret

Resident
A recent arrival in the area, this is an elegant bright white bird very similar to but much smaller than a heron. When it flies, it tucks its neck in and sticks its legs out to the rear.
Size: 53-58cm
Where: Fresh water

Canada Goose

Resident
Brown speckled body, black neck ending abruptly. Very distinctive white cheek patch. In autumn, see them fly across Teifi Estuary at dawn and dusk in gaggling formations which are lovely to behold.
Size: 100cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water

Sanderling

Winter visitor
Small. Paler plumage than similar waders. Dark rim along bottom of wing and tail. Bill: longish, straight, dark. Runs fast on thin legs. Forms small groups. Often roosts with dunlins at high tide. In flight: sharp wings, dark stripe down centre of rump and tail with white sides. Very white under and pearly above.
Size: 20cm
Where: Sea coast

Whimbrel

Winter visitor
Likes rocky shores. Much smaller than curlew and darker with pale stripe edged by dark stripe each side on crown of head. Bill: downcurved with bend. Dumpier than curlew in flight and faster. Call is rapid rippling titter.
Size: 38cm
Where: Sea coast

Coal Tit

Resident
Has black head, white cheek, white patch on back of neck and 2 rows of white spots across wings. Otherwise similar to Marsh and Coal Tits. Very agile. Takes whole nut from feeder and buries it or eats it alone.
Size: 11cm
Where: Inland

Willow Tit

Resident
Less easy to spot than Marsh Tit. Chunkier head with thick neck and dull cap. Favours damp woods: alder and willow so less likely to be close to casual spotters. Song quite musical: si-si tchay-tchay-tchay.
Size: 12cm
Where: Inland

Linnet

Resident
Carduelis. Likes open heath and cliff scrub. Perches on bushes or wires. Male: rosy breast in summer; tawny brown on top with dark wings showing white streaks in flight. Tail black and white with deep fork. Feeds on seeds on ground, often flocking with finches and sparrows in winter. Chi-chi chiu plus warbling.
Size: 15cm
Where: Sea coast, Inland

Redpoll

Resident
Carduelis genus. Likes trees but also comes down to feed. Very streaky underparts, black bib. Male: pale rosy breast and dark red forehead. Birch and larch preferred food. Flocks bounce around in flight and make loud rattling 'check' sound.
Size: 12cm
Where: Inland

Reed Bunting

Resident
Mostly beside water but may appear in winter fields. Male: black head in summer (grey/brown winter) with white collar. Streaky brown/black back tinged with yellowish brown. Freckled greyish underparts. Female: dark crown and white eye stripe. Tail: blunt. Black with broad white patches on sides.
Size: 16cm
Where: Inland, Fresh water

Meadow Pipit

Resident
Walks around on open moors and marshes and flocks on fields in winter. Pale grey or brown above with dark streaks and prominent white-edged black 'frill' at top of wing when at rest. Very streaky breast - cream or pale orangish buff. It flutters about jerkily doing squeaky chirps.
Size: 15cm
Where: Inland

Treecreeper

Resident
An extremely cute little bird; it creeps up tree trunks to find insects. Little downcurved bill. Mottled pale brown on top with darker patches on wing. Pales underside. Doesn't visit garden feeders.
Size: 13cm
Where: Inland

Sparrowhawk

Resident
Upperparts all-over grey/blue with pale rust bars and white below. Shorter, more pointed tail than Kestrel. Long, yellow legs. No spotted feathers above. Often flies a few feet above the road for quite a distance. Females bigger than male with browner upperside.
Size: 27-37cm
Where: Inland

Common Gull

Resident
Medium sized. Dainty bill not bright yellow. Grey and white. Herring gull is much more common in West Wales.
Size: 40-42cm
Where: Sea coast, Inland

Turnstone

Winter visitor
Sometimes resident. Likes rocks, shells and seaweed. Noisy groups. It is the ONLY bird of this size with such a black breast and white below. Dark stripe round neck and very mottled brownish wings. In flight: white patches on wings and back.
Size: 22-24cm
Where: Sea coast

Teal

Winter visitor
Likes the edges of lakes. Has large head with band of golden orange from base of bill leading over top of head down to base of neck. Face divided into green and wine red. Chest smart grey with thin black lines like Pintail. In flight: green rear wing, white mid wing stripe.
Size: 20cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water

Whooper Swan

Winter visitor
Only a winter visitor, it is larger than the Bewick, its bill is yellow with a black tip, the yellow showing all around the base (unlike Bewick where the black extends all the way up at front). It's white all over with black legs. Feeds in fields, on estuaries and lakes. Also on fringes of hills. Bewicks like lowlands.
Size: 145-160cm
Where: Fresh water

Oystercatcher

Resident
Black and white with long, narrow orange bill. Black head and rump with white underparts. Flight shows broad angled white stripe on each wing and white rump with black tail tip. Large flocks often utter high-pitched twee-twee when in flight. They land in a big tumble and set to feeding on shore or mud.
Size: 43cm
Where: Sea coast, Fresh water, Island

Curlew

Resident
Largest wader of its kind with long down-turned bill. Mainly grey-brown speckled plumage. Reveals white rump in flight. Calls "Cu-urlew" often late into the evening. Breeds on uplands but is often around the Teifi estuary in late summer as well as winter.
Size: 53-58cm
Where: Sea coast, Inland, Island

Herring Gull

Resident
Large and noisy. Grey and white with large yellow bill which has red spot on lower tip. Legs pinkish - NOT yellow.
Size: 56-62cm
Where: Sea coast, Inland, Island
Next