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Online Field Guide: Birds

Use the filters to home in possible candidates for the species you are trying to identify. You DO NOT have to select an option from every filter! The more precise you are the more likely you are to find your species but if any filter option you select is wrong you will miss it. You may need to try several options before you find what you are looking for.

You can narrow your search by selecting a general group of birds your species may belong to
Alternatively, if you can be more precise, you can select at the 'family' level
You may wish to specify the month in which you saw the species
Choose what you consider to be the dominant colour of the bird you saw; specifying a colour for birds is difficult but you can
You can also have a go at selecting by size
Habitats are useful for breeding or resident birds but migrant species can turn up almost anywhere!

Arctic Tern

Sterna paradisaea

Photograph by: Peter Coe

Look for:

A slender common tern with longer tail streamers

  • Very difficult to separate from the common tern in flight and they are rarely seen on the ground in Dorset
  • A northern breeding species seen mainly on migration here but some are seen during the mid-summer months too
  • It is a more delicate bird than the common ter; it has longer tai streamers and is a slightly darker grey 
Status: Restricted

Avocet

Recurvirostra avosetta

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A black and white bird with a unique up turned bill

  • Once very scarce but now a  thousand or so over winter in Poole Harbour
  • A small number are attempting to breed on Brownsea Island but so far without success due to nest predation 
  • Unmistakable being the only wader with an upcurved bill and blue legs  
Status: Locally frequent

Balearic Shearwater

Puffinus maurretanicus

Photograph by: Dominic Couzens

Look for:

A shearwater with a bark brown back and light undersides

  • Seen offshore in summer
  • Typical shearwater in appearance with a slender body and long wings
  • Less likely to be seen in flocks like its cousin the Manx shearwater 
Status: Scarce

Bar-tailed Godwit

Limosa lapponica

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The long straight bill then look for differences with black-tailed godwit

  • Far less numerous in Dorset than its cousin the black-tailed godwit
  • Seen mainly on migration in spring and autumn but also a wintering species in small numbers; one or two may also be seen during the summer
  • Slightly smaller than the black-tailed and with a shorter neck but the main difference can be seen when they fly as it lacks the black 'tail' of its counterpart
Status: Occasional

Barn Owl

Tyto alba

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Ghostly white birds over rough pasture and downland at dusk

  • A very scarce bird in Dorset with limited reported sightings
  • Active at dusk hunting for small mammals 
  • Numbers possibly increased in winter by incoming migrant birds
Status: Scarce

Barnacle Goose

Branta leucopsis

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A goose similar to a Canada goose but with a white face rather than a white chin strap

  • Looks much like many other geese from a distance
  • The white face is diagnostic, there is no similar species with this feature
  • Smaller than a Canada goose but bigger than a Brent goose 
Status: Rare

Barred Warbler

Sylvia nisoria

Photograph by: Portland Bird Observatory

Look for:

A large warbler with a dark grey head and back and streaked light grey underparts 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Bearded Tit

Alternative Name(s): Bearded Reedling
Panurus biarmicus

Photograph by: Peter Coe

Look for:

A small group of birds feeding around the seed heads of phragmites and reedmace

  • Rarely seen away from their favoured reed bed habitat
  • The distinctive black facial markings of the male make it easy to identify 
  • Resident in Dorset and seem most of the year round but can be elusive 
Status: Local

Bewicks Swan

Cygnus columbianus

Photograph by: Internet Open Source

Look for:

An elegant swan with a yellow bill that is a little smaller than the famiar mute swan

  • It has a yellow and black bill rather than red like the more common mute swan
  • It is similar to the whooper swan but somewhat smaller
  • Rarely seen in Dorset so take care with identification 
Status: Very rare

Bittern

Botaurus stellaris

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A brown, pointed bird flying over reed beds

  • Rarely seen unless they take flight when their unique profile makes them unmistakable
  • Totally dependent on dense reedbeds you will be unlikely to see a bittern anywhere else
  • Although difficult to see they can be heard, their booming sound echos from reedbeds in spring
Status: Scarce

Black Brant

Alternative Name(s): Pacific brent goose
Branta bernicla nigricans

Photograph by: Debby Saunders

Look for:

A very dark coloured vsersion of the more familiar Brent goose

  • This is a rare species and and difficult to distinguish from the brent goose

  • If you see one try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Black Redstart

Phoenicurus ochruros

Photograph by: Mike Morse

Look for:

A dark robin-sized bird with orange fashes in the tail when it flies

  • The black redstart is very common in urban settings in central Europe
  • Small numbers overwinter here in Dorset, usually on rocky cliffs but sometimes on tall buildings
  • Its dark grey colouring with orange in the tail makes it almost unmistakable  
Status: Restricted

Black Swan

Cygnus atratus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A swan that is entirely black apart from its red bill 

 

  • This is a feral species that has probably escaped from a collection

  • It is only really only of interest for its curiosity value

  • However populations of these species need to be monitored to detect potential problems

Status: Feral

Black-headed Gull

Larus ridibundus

Summer plumage

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A smallish gull with red beak and legs

  • The smallest of the usual Dorset gulls, certainly smaller than the herring gull
  • In summer they have a chocolate face which they lose in winter leaving just a black mark behind the ear
  • Usually in groups and can be very noisy but they lack the herring gulls laughing call 
Status: Locally common

Black-headed Gull

Larus ridibundus

Winter plumage

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A smallish gull with red beak and legs

  • The smallest of the usual Dorset gulls, certainly smaller than the herring gull
  • In summer they have a chocolate face which they lose in winter leaving just a black mark behind the ear
  • Usually in groups and can be very noisy but they lack the herring gulls laughing call 
Status: Locally common

Black-necked Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Diving birds off shore with shorter necks than the more common Gt Crested Grebe

  • Winter visitors only, they do not breed this far south
  • Seen off shore in open but sheltered waters in bays and harbours
  • Shorter necks than the great crested grebe but difficult to tell apart from the less common Slavonian grebe
Status: Occasional

Black-tailed Godwit

Limosa limosa

Summer plumage

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A tall wader with a long straight bill, usually in a large flock

  • Poole Harbour is one of the main overwintering locations for this species but it can also be seen in Christchurch harbour, on the Fleet and of a couple of other places
  • Can be seen sometimes in flocks of hundreds feeding at low tide and making a wonderful display should they take off
  • In early spring or early autumn some birds may display their smart summer plumage which is predominately a chestnut brown
Status: Common

Black-tailed Godwit

Limosa limosa

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A tall wader with a long straight bill, usually in a large flock

  • Poole Harbour is one of the main overwintering locations for this species but it can also be seen in Christchurch harbour, on the Fleet and of a couple of other places
  • Can be seen sometimes in flocks of hundreds feeding at low tide and making a wonderful display should they take off
  • In early spring or early autumn some birds may display their smart summer plumage which is predominately a chestnut brown
Status: Common

Black-tailed Godwit

Limosa limosa

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A tall wader with a long straight bill, usually in a large flock

  • Poole Harbour is one of the main overwintering locations for this species but it can also be seen in Christchurch harbour, on the Fleet and of a couple of other places
  • Can be seen sometimes in flocks of hundreds feeding at low tide and making a wonderful display should they take off
  • In early spring or early autumn some birds may display their smart summer plumage which is predominately a chestnut brown
Status: Common

Black-throated Diver

Gavia arctica

Photograph by: Debby Saunders

Look for:

A sleek cormorant-like bird with pied plumage

  • Has a rounded top to the head whereas the Gt Northern diver has a flatter head
  • Larger and with a thicker neck that the red-throated diver
  • More likely to be seen in a harbour than the red-throated diver which presers open sea
Status: Scarce

Blackbird

Turdus merula

Male

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A totally black bird with a yellow beak

  • The female is, of course, brown rather than black!
  • Common almost everywhere but not in flocks as they are agrresive towards others of their species
  • Numbers boosted in winter by migrants from Europe 
Status: Common

Blackbird

Turdus merula

Female

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A totally black bird with a yellow beak

  • The female is, of course, brown rather than black!
  • Common almost everywhere but not in flocks as they are agrresive towards others of their species
  • Numbers boosted in winter by migrants from Europe 
Status: Common

Blackcap

Sylvia atricapilla

Male with black cap

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A small warbler with a black or brown cap

  • The black cap of the male is clearly diagnostic, this is brown in the female
  • A summer visitor but can be seen in gardens in winter and these are immigrant birds from Europe
  • Noted for its lovely song and known as the poor man's nightingale!
Status: Frequent

Blackcap

Sylvia atricapilla

Female with brown cap

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A small warbler with a black or brown cap

  • The black cap of the male is clearly diagnostic, this is brown in the female
  • A summer visitor but can be seen in gardens in winter and these are immigrant birds from Europe
  • Noted for its lovely song and known as the poor man's nightingale!
Status: Frequent

Blue Tit

Parus caeruleus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Distinctive blue colouration unlike other birds

  • Frequent visitor to garden seed and nut bags
  • Often in flocks of mixed birds in winter
  • Family feeding partied can be seen in mid-summer
Status: Common

Bluethroat

Luscinia svecica

Photograph by: John Wall

Look for:

The patch of blue on the throat (of course!)

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Brambling

Fringilla montifringilla

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A bird that looks a bit like a chaffinch but is obviously not!

  • Its colouration can not really be confused with any species other than the much our native chaffinch
  • Closely related to the chaffinch small numbers sometimes join chaffinch flocks in winter for protection 
  • Seen mainly in Autumn on migration but in some years arriving in considerable numbers during he winter months   
Status: Scarce

Brent Goose

Branta bernicla

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Smallish compact geese in often in flocks, sometimes quite large gatherings can be seen

  • A wintering species that arrive in large numbers along the south coast in late autumn
  • Smaller than the Canada  goose and with a white mark on the neck rather than a white chin strap
  • There are various races from different parts of the Arctic, dark-bellied, pale-bellied and the black brant 
Status: Locally frequent

Bullfinch

Pyrrhula pyrrhula

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The bright black, white and red colouration

  • Now seen less often but numbers are often swelled in autumn by immigrants from Europe
  • Associated with fruit trees in spring where they eat flower buds!
  • Have a gentle, whistling 'tweep-tweep, call
Status: Occasional

Buzzard

Buteo buteo

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

Large birds soaring in the sky on sunny days

  • Probably now the most common bird of prey in Dorset and in winter numbers are boosted by incoming migrant birds
  • They can appear in quite large groups in fields in cold weather where they feed on worms and grubs
  • On cold, dull days when they cannot soar they can be see sitting glumly on fence posts and telegraph poles 
Status: Frequent

Canada Goose

Branta canadensis

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The bold white chin strap under the bill

  • Introduced to adorn country gardens in earlier times and now well established in the wild around large lakes and occasionally near the sea
  • Although they do not migrate they become restless in autumn and can be seen flying in a V formation honking loudly as they go
  • Larger than most of our native geese and of similar colouring in general but the large white chin strap is unique to this species  
Status: Feral

Carrion Crow

Corvus corone

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

Large, sleek black birds in open countryside

  • Although less gregarious than rooks and jackdaws you can still encounter carrion crows in small groups of 6-8
  • Sleek, shiny birds with a jet black sharp, pointed beak
  • Usually found in rough, open countryside and cliff top locations but can be seen elsewhere in various habitats, even gardens 
Status: Frequent

Cattle Egret

Bubulcus ibis

Photograph by: Steve Groves

Look for:

White egrets in fields with cattle

  • Similar size to a little egret but more 'hunched shoulders' and lacking the black legs and bill
  • Almost inevitably seen around cattle where they feed on insects attracted by cows
  • Once very rare in Dorset but much more frequently seen in the last couple of years or so 
Status: Rare

Cettis Warbler

Cettia cetti

Photograph by: Pam Parsons

Look for:

A short and loud repetitive call from, or near, reed beds

  • Only a UK resident since the 1970's but now frequent near reed beds in Dorset
  • Difficult to see and best found by their song which can also be heard in winter
  • The song is a short but loud 'diddle, diddle, diddly, diddly diddly'!
Status: Local

Chaffinch

Fringilla coelebs

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

Very distinctive white wing flash often seen as it flies

  • Once considered our most common native bird
  • Its colouration can not really be confused with any species other than the much rarer brambling
  • A ground feeding seed eater but has recently mastered the seed feeder in our garden! 
Status: Common

Chiffchaff

Phylloscopus collybita

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

The unmistakable continuous chiff-chaff song

  • Hard to distinguish from the willow warbler other than by song
  • Prefers more dense woodland than the willow warbler
  • A summer visitor but also seen in winter with migrant birds arriving here from northern Europe
Status: Common

Coal Tit

Parus ater

Photograph by: Pam Parsons

Look for:

White stripe along a black cap

  • Will visit gardens near conifer woodlands in winter
  • Known for caching nuts and then not coming back for them!
  • Smaller and lacking the yellow of the great tit
Status: Local

Collared Dove

Streptopelia decaocto

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A pair of buff/brown pigeons

  • Collonised Britain in the 1950's and became widepread and common but may now be beconing less so
  • Mate for life and nearly always seen in pairs
  • Always seen around farms, houses, parks and gardens 
Status: Frequent

Common Gull

Alternative Name(s): Mew Gull
Larus canus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A gull with greenish legs and bill

  • Although the common gull it is far from common in Dorset
  • Primarily a winter visitor but not in big numbers
  • Smaller than the herring gull and with a greenish bill and legs rather than yellow 
Status: Occasional

Common Rosefinch

Alternative Name(s): Scarlet Rosefinch
Carpodacus erythrinus

Photograph by: Debby Saunders

Look for:

A dumpy finch the size of a house sparrow with a red head and throat  

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Common Sandpiper

Actitis hypoleucos

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The gently bobbing tail

  • Mostly seen on migration drunig the spring and autumn in Dorset although occasional birds occur in mid-summer
  • Although seen on mudflats at low tide they can also be seen almost anywhere during migration times including lakes, ponds and rivers
  • They have a constantly bobbing tail which helps distinguish them  
Status: Occasional

Common Scoter

Melanitta nigra

Juvenile female

Photograph by: Steve Groves

Look for:

Small black ducks well off shore

  • Rarely seen close up and most often seen in flight
  • Appear to be small black ducks from a dstance but their profile is different to most other ducks
  • Very difficult to tell apart from the scarcer velvet scoter unless seen at closer quarters 
Status: Occasional

Common Scoter

Melanitta nigra

Photograph by: Richard Charmouth

Look for:

Small black ducks well off shore

  • Rarely seen close up and most often seen in flight
  • Appear to be small black ducks from a dstance but their profile is different to most other ducks
  • Very difficult to tell apart from the scarcer velvet scoter unless seen at closer quarters 
Status: Occasional

Common Tern

Sterna hirundo

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

Birds plunging in to the sea just off shore

  • The most frequently seen of the tern family in Dorset especially during migration periods
  • Smaller than the sandwich tern and larger than the little tern
  • Almost identical to the much more scarce arctic tern which is only seen on passage in spring and autumn
Status: Locally frequent

Coot

Fulica atra

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The white shield on the forehead

  • Superficially like a moorhen but there are distinct differences with the coot being entirely black apart from the white 'shield' on its forehead
  • Prefers open water and can be seen on larger lakes during the breeding season
  • In winter there numbers are swelled by incoming migrants and they can be seen in large numbers on sheltered open waters
Status: Frequent

Coot

Fulica atra

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The white shield on the forehead

  • Superficially like a moorhen but there are distinct differences with the coot being entirely black apart from the white 'shield' on its forehead
  • Prefers open water and can be seen on larger lakes during the breeding season
  • In winter there numbers are swelled by incoming migrants and they can be seen in large numbers on sheltered open waters
Status: Frequent

Cormorant

Phalacrocorax carbo

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

Large prehistoric-looking black birds in harbours and on rivers

  • Although looking entirely black cormorants and really dark brown and have white facial markings and young ones have white fronts
  • You can see cormorants diving for fish on open water, flying up river courses and even sat in trees
  • After fishing they like to find a handy perch and hang their wings out to dry
Status: Frequent

Corn Bunting

Miliarua calandra

Photograph by: Pam Parsons

Look for:

Listen for the song described as being like a bunch of jangling keys!

  • Once a common bird of farmland around barley crops but sadly no longer
  • A very scarce breeding species in Dorset now
  • The only brown bunting likely to be found in open countryside 
Status: Scarce

Crossbill

Loxia curvirostra

Male

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A stout finch with the unique crossed bill

  • Almost invariably seen around conifers 
  • They are gregarious birds and are usually seen in flocks
  • Males are reddish in colour, females are green
Status: Occasional

Crossbill

Loxia curvirostra

Female

Photograph by: Simon Treasure

Look for:

A stout finch with the unique crossed bill

  • Almost invariably seen around conifers 
  • They are gregarious birds and are usually seen in flocks
  • Males are reddish in colour, females are green
Status: Occasional

Cuckoo

Cuculus canorus

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

That distinctive call in spring

  • Rapidly declining populations in Dorset, now scarce
  • More often heard than seen
  • Looks a bit like a bird of prey when in flight
Status: Local

Curlew

Numenius arquata

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Stocky wader with a very long curved bill

  • Seen throughout the autumn and winter though in less numbers these days
  • Feeding on the mudflats at low tide but in neighbouring saltmarsh and fields at high tide
  • Take a good look at the bill, if it has a distinct bend half way along rather than a gentle curve check out whimbrel
Status: Occasional

Curlew Sandpiper

Calidris ferruginea

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A dunlin-like bird with a longer curved bill

  • Never seen here in great numbers yet seen every autumn whilst on migration
  • It is a clors relative of the dunlin but has a longer, downward curving bill
  • It is usually more solitary than the more gregarious dunlin which is always seen in large flocks 
Status: Restricted

Dartford Warbler

Sylvia undata

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A heathland bird with a long, often cocked, tail

  • ONLY found on heathland
  • Likes to sing from the top of gorse bushes in spring
  • The dark colouration and the longish, cocked tail make it visible from some distance
Status: Local

Dipper

Cinclus cinclus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A small, bobbing bird on fast flowing streams and rivers

  • Uncommon in Dorset and confined to a couple of fast flowing rivers in the extreme west of county
  • Known for their ability to walk under water!
  • Frequently seen on rocks in streams and have a habit of bobbing, or dipping, up and down
Status: Scarce

Dunlin

Calidris alpina

Winter plumage

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Flocks of smallish waders flying in close formation

  • One of the more common waders here in winter but can be seen here in summer too
  • Found on mudflats at low tide and saltmarsh at high tide
  • Known for their amazing close formation flying display especially when there is danger about
Status: Locally common

Dunnock

Alternative Name(s): Hedge sparrow, Hedge accentor
Prunella modularis

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A skulking bird feeding on the ground under shrubs 

  • Often dismissed as a sparrow but more solitary and less active than house sparrows
  • In gardens they will often be seen feeding under shrubs rather than in the open
  • In spring they will sit on a prominent perch a utter their delightful song for long periods
Status: Frequent

Egyptian Goose

Alopochen aeqyptiacus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

An unusually buff and red coloured goose

 

  • This is a feral species that has probably escaped from a collection

  • It is only really only of interest for its curiosity value

  • However populations of these species need to be monitored to detect potential problems

Status: Feral

Eider

Somateria mollissima

Photograph by: John Wall

Look for:

A large duck off shore with a distinctive pointed face 

  • Large ducks usually offshore, sometimes well out to sea
  • Often more visible in flight where there pied plumage shows well even at a distance
  • They have a curious pointed face where the bill seems to be a integrated pat of their face 
Status: Occasional

Fieldfare

Turdus pilaris

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Groups of large greyish thrushes feeding on berries

  • A winter visitor from mainland Europe
  • Some years they can come in large numbers and others they can be scarce
  • Gregarious and always seen in flocks, often in the company of redwing
Status: Frequent

Firecrest

Regulus ignicapilla

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A goldcrest-like bird with white and black facial stripes

  • Although resident in UK firecrest are most likely to be seen in autumn/winter in Dorset
  • Some years they are more frequent than others
  • Distinctive facial markings and orange head stripe distinguish from goldcrest
Status: Scarce

Fulmar

Fulmarus glacialis

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

Gull-like birds with stiff, outstretched wings gliding near cliffs

  • Although similar to gulls it is a member of the petrel family and is properly known as the fulmar petrel
  • Noted for their skillful gliding flight using stiffly held outstretched wings
  • Breed on the cliffs of Dorset and are most numerous in summer but can be seen all year round   
Status: Local

Gadwall

Anas strepera

Male

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Large mottle grey/brown ducks with a distinctive black tail

  • Gadwall seem to increasing in numbers especially in winter when the population is boosted by the arrival of birds from elsewhere
  • Larger than a mallard, greyish rather than brown, lacking the green head but having a black tail they really should not be mistaken 
  • They tend to float around in pairs and are gentle ducks rarely making a fuss like mallards do  
Status: Frequent

Gadwall

Anas strepera

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

Large mottle grey/brown ducks with a distinctive black tail

  • Gadwall seem to increasing in numbers especially in winter when the population is boosted by the arrival of birds from elsewhere
  • Larger than a mallard, greyish rather than brown, lacking the green head but having a black tail they really should not be mistaken 
  • They tend to float around in pairs and are gentle ducks rarely making a fuss like mallards do  
Status: Frequent

Gannet

Morus bassanus

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

Large white birds with black wing tips flying out at sea

  • Gannets cannot be seen on land in Dorset but are constantly seen passing by out at sea often diving in to the wter for fish
  • The nearest nesting colony is on Alderney in the Channel Islands and it is believed most of the birds we sea from the Dorset cliffs are from there
  • Unmistakable even from a distant with their sleek lines and white plumage with black wing tips
Status: Local

Garden Warbler

Sylvia borin

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A small, brown warbler with a big voice!

  • A species of downland scrub and NEVER seen in gardens despite is name!
  • Now quite rare in Dorset outside of migration times
  • Has a song similar to the blackcap but is more sustained in longer sessions
Status: Local

Garganey

Anas querquedula

Photograph by: Retweet

Look for:

A small, compact duck in the spring or summer months

  • Look for the white flash on the head of the male that runs from above the eye down towards the neck
  • A smaller, more compact duck than a mallard
  • Only seen in spring and summer
Status: Scarce

Glaucous Gull

Larus hyperboreus

Photograph by: Mike Morse

Look for:

A large, stocky grey gull without black tips to the wings 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Goldcrest

Regulus regulus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Tiny bird flitting around in bushes, often conifers

  • Does visit gardens in winter
  • Check for firecrest
  • Has a thin but attractive undulating song
Status: Occasional

Golden Oriole

Oriolus oriolus

Photograph by: Julian Thomas

Look for:

The unmistakable golden feathers on the main body and black wings 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Golden Pheasant

Chrysolophus pictus

Photograph by: Tony Furnell

Look for:

A golden and red coloured pheasant

 

  • This is a feral species that has probably escaped from a collection

  • It is only really only of interest for its curiosity value

  • However populations of these species need to be monitored to detect potential problems

Status: Feral

Golden Plover

Pluvialis apricaria

Summer plumage

Photograph by: Peter Coe

Look for:

Flocks of waders on ploughed fields, rough pasture and damp meadows

  • Loss of suitable habitat now means flocks of golden plover are now seen less often than they once were
  • A wintering species of wader but rarely seen wading, they prefer rough pasture and damp meadows
  • Nearly always seen in largish flocks 
Status: Restricted

Golden Plover

Pluvialis apricaria

Winter plumage

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Flocks of waders on ploughed fields, rough pasture and damp meadows

  • Loss of suitable habitat now means flocks of golden plover are now seen less often than they once were
  • A wintering species of wader but rarely seen wading, they prefer rough pasture and damp meadows
  • Nearly always seen in largish flocks 
Status: Restricted

Goldeneye

Bucephala clangula

Female with male behind

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The white patch on the cheeks which, from a distance, look like big eyes

  • One of the less common wintering ducks on the open waters of the Dorset harbours and sometime off shore on the sea
  • From a distance the white patch on both checks between the eye and bill is clearly visible and diagnostic
  • The profile of the head which seems to have a large bump on it can also help identify them at a distance
Status: Occasional

Goldfinch

Carduelis carduelis

Photograph by: Tony Furnell

Look for:

The bright red face and gold flash in the wings

  • Form large flocks in winter
  • Are now frequent visitors to garden feeders
  • Have a long twittering song sung from a high perch
Status: Frequent

Goosander

Mergus merganser

Photograph by: John Wall

Look for:

Long billed diving duck on sheltered waters and on lakes and rivers

  • A winter visitor to Dorset seen mainly from November through until April
  • Unlike their cousin, the red-breasted merganser, they are rarely seen at sea preferring sheltered waters or lakes and rivers
  • The male is black and white whereas the female is red-headed with a grey body
Status: Occasional

Goshawk

Accipiter gentilis

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A bird like a female sparrowhawk but the size of a buzzard 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Grasshopper Warbler

Locustella naevia

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A small brown/grey warbler best distinguished by its song that recalls grasshopper stridulation hence its name 

  • In the breeding season it lives deep in red beds and dense scrub and is often heard rather than seen
  • Could be described as the quintessential 'little brown job' but is generally a darker brown than many warblers
  • In Dorset most likely to be seen whilst on migration and difficult to identify away from its breeding habitat  
Status: Occasional

Great Black-backed Gull

Larus marinus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

Big gulls with a very dark back

  • Our biggest gull frequently seen in Dorset, somewhat larger than the lesser black-backed 
  • Usually seen in pairs or small groups rather than the larger groups of our other gulls but often in the comapny of other gulls
  • Aggressive birds that harass other gulls to try and make them drop food they may be carrying
Status: Occasional

Great Black-backed Gull

Larus marinus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Big gulls with a very dark back

  • Our biggest gull frequently seen in Dorset, somewhat larger than the lesser black-backed 
  • Usually seen in pairs or small groups rather than the larger groups of our other gulls but often in the comapny of other gulls
  • Aggressive birds that harass other gulls to try and make them drop food they may be carrying
Status: Occasional

Great Black-backed Gull

Larus marinus

Juvenile

Photograph by: Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group

Look for:

Big gulls with a very dark back

  • Our biggest gull frequently seen in Dorset, somewhat larger than the lesser black-backed 
  • Usually seen in pairs or small groups rather than the larger groups of our other gulls but often in the comapny of other gulls
  • Aggressive birds that harass other gulls to try and make them drop food they may be carrying
Status: Occasional

Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus

Summer plumage

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The long neck and low body profile

  • Summer and winter plumage is very different and in spring and summer the vibrant colurs make it easy to identify as it breeds on lakes and large ponds
  • In winter they lose these colours and become pale grey as they move to open water to feed and this makes them harder to identify
  • In winter the are often seen in groups of up to a dozen off shore and can be identified by their long necks, pointed bill and low body profile in the water
Status: Occasional

Great Crested Grebe

Podiceps cristatus

Winter plumage

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

The long neck and low body profile

  • Summer and winter plumage is very different and in spring and summer the vibrant colurs make it easy to identify as it breeds on lakes and large ponds
  • In winter they lose these colours and become pale grey as they move to open water to feed and this makes them harder to identify
  • In winter the are often seen in groups of up to a dozen off shore and can be identified by their long necks, pointed bill and low body profile in the water
Status: Occasional

Great Grey Shrike

Lanius excubitor

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A plump grey bird sat on an exposed tree branch around heathland

  • Although the 'great' grey shrike it is only about the size of a blackbird
  • Nearly always found on heaths in winter here in Dorset
  • The black band on a grey background is really unmistakable 
Status: Rare

Great Northern Diver

Gavia immer

Photograph by: Martin Wood

Look for:

A distant bird on open sea resembling the profile of a cormorant

  • A small number over winter off the Dorset coast each year
  • They can also sometimes be seen in the harbours, notably Poole and Portpand
  • The top of their head looks flattened! 
Status: Scarce

Great Shearwater

Puffinus gravis

Photograph by: Debby Saunders

Look for:

A largish, sleek seabird with long pointed wings; dark on the back and light underneath 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Very rare

Great Spotted Woodpecker

Dendrocopos major

Photograph by: RSPB Arne

Look for:

A distant drumming sound in early spring

  • Usually found in woodland settings, prefers broadleaf but also occurs amongst conifers
  • Will be seen on feeders in gardens that are near woodland, espcially in winter
  • As well as the distinctive drumming it makes in spring it has a sharp, loud contact/alarm call
Status: Occasional

Great Tit

Parus major

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Striking yellow and black frontal markings

  • Larger than the blue tit
  • Often in flocks with other species in winter
  • Well known for its spring 'teacher-teacher' song
Status: Common

Great White Egret

Ardea alba

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A very large white egret

  • Much larger than the little egret or the cattle egret
  • Lacks the black legs and bill of the now common little egret
  • Very scarce in Dorset until the last two or three years and now being ssen more frequently
Status: Rare

Green Sandpiper

Tringa ochropus

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

Medium sized, dark backed, wader hugging the edge of mud and saltmarsh

  • Unsure why they are called green sandpiper as the do not seem to display any green colouring to me
  • Although found mainly by saltmarsh and mudflats they can also be seen inland in damp meadows and even watercress beds
  • A delicate bird with a dark brown back and a white rump when it flies 
Status: Occasional

Green Woodpecker

Picus viridis

Photograph by: Mike Hetherington

Look for:

A laughing call, almost like a horse neighing

  • Although a wood pecker more often seen in open, scrubby grassland habitats
  • Has a passion for ants and can often be seen feeding on the ground
  • Has a distinctive undulating flight 
Status: Occasional

Greenfinch

Carduelis chloris

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Yellow flashes in the wing of a green-tinged bird

  • A frequent visitor to garden feeders and often dominate the pecking order'
  • Less common than once was due to disease often spread through garden feeders
  • Have a twittering song that recalls the song of its cousin, the canary 
Status: Occasional

Greenshank

Tringa nebularia

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A wader with pale green legs

  • Over winter in Dorset in small numbers every year and can occasionally be seen in summer
  • A slender, elegant wader with a longish neck 
  • The pale green legs are unique and a positive identification feature
Status: Occasional

Grey Heron

Ardea cinerea

Photograph by: Brian Whalley

Look for:

Tall, motionless grey birds by water

  • The largest of our frequent herons, egret and related species with long legs and pointed bills
  • Often seen stood motionless for long periods by water waiting for a fish to swim by
  • Nest in colonies of which there are very few in Dorset so more often seen out of the breeding season 
Status: Occasional

Grey Partridge

Perdix perdix

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A group of a dozen or so plump grey birds running on the ground

  • Small, plump, mainly grey birds with a small head and short legs
  • Scarce now and seen mainly on wild, open grassland habitats rather than on farms
  • Most active at dawn and dusk  
Status: Scarce

Grey Phalarope

Phalaropus filicarius

Photograph by: Freddy Alway

Look for:

A smallish wader with more of a remblance to a gull rather than a sandpiper 

  • Predominantly an autumn migrational species and rarely seen in spring
  • Rarely seen in groups, usually as loan individuals
  • Likely to be seen in sheltered saline waters, especially along the Fleet 
Status: Scarce

Grey Plover

Pluvialis squatarola

Summer plumage

Photograph by: Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group

Look for:

A plump wader, on its own, displaying a dark eye stripe

  • Winter in Dorset every year and can also be seen in small numbers during the summer
  • Can be seen on mudflats feeding at low tide but often on their own rather than social groups
  • A plump bird with a short neck and horizontal stance 
Status: Occasional

Grey Plover

Pluvialis squatarola

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A plump wader, on its own, displaying a dark eye stripe

  • Winter in Dorset every year and can also be seen in small numbers during the summer
  • Can be seen on mudflats feeding at low tide but often on their own rather than social groups
  • A plump bird with a short neck and horizontal stance 
Status: Occasional

Grey Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea

Photograph by: Pam Parsons

Look for:

The wagging long tail on rocks and branches in streams

  • It was said every bridge across Dorset's rivers had grey wagtails nearby but that is no longer the case
  • Often confused with yellow wagtails because of their colouring but far less yellow than its cousin
  • The long wagging tail is a characteristic of the family 
Status: Occasional

Grey Wagtail

Motacilla cinerea

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The wagging long tail on rocks and branches in streams

  • It was said every bridge across Dorset's rivers had grey wagtails nearby but that is no longer the case
  • Often confused with yellow wagtails because of their colouring but far less yellow than its cousin
  • The long wagging tail is a characteristic of the family 
Status: Occasional

Greylag Goose

Anser anser

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

Large grey geese without white facial markings 

  • The ancestors of our domesticated farm goose
  • True greylags rarely come as far south west as Dorset and any seen here may well have developed from feral stocks
  • Seen in small parties, up to half a dozen, usually rather than in big flocks like many geese (apart from Poole Park!)
Status: Local

Guillemot

Uria aalge

Photograph by: Adrian Groves

Look for:

Penguin shaped birds on rocky cliff ledges

  • Fair size nesting colonies can be found at Durslton and on Portland
  • Often seen floating on the sea at the bottom of the cliffs, usually in straight lines!
  • Our most numerous and often seen member of the auk family 
Status: Locally frequent

Hawfinch

Coccothraustes coccothraustes

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A brown and buff bird with a stout strong beak

  • A rare visitor to Dorset but subject to population irruptions from time to time
  • In winter known to visit churchyard yew trees to feed on the berries
  • A distinctively marked finch with a very stout beak
Status: Rare

Hen Harrier

Circus cyaneus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

An owl-like face on a standard bird of prey body!

  • Now hunted to near extinction in England some pairs still successfully breed in Scotland
  • Only the male is grey, the female is brown with a white bar on the tail (they are known as ring-tails)
  • They have an elaborate display flight in spring which gives them the name of sky dancers 
Status: Restricted

Herring Gull

Larus argentatus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

Large gulls with yellow bills with a red spot on the underside

  • The iconic seagull of coastal towns with the loud laughing call
  • Still breed on coastal cliffs but also now on the roofs of houses 
  • Larger than the other common Dorset gull, the black-headed 
Status: Locally common

Hobby

Falco subbuteo

Photograph by: Retweet

Look for:

The swift-like silhouette as it pursues prey in flight 

  • Looks quite like a peregrine but is smaller
  • Hunts dragonflies and other large insects over heathland pools
  • Can be seen hunting flocks of swallows and martins during autumn migration 
Status: Occasional

Hoopoe

Upupa epops

Photograph by: Clive Templeton

Look for:

A chestnut brown bird with a fancy headdress 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

House Martin

Delichon urbicum

Photograph by: David Foster

Look for:

Small black and white birds flying in groups at speed

  • Nest on houses (often those painted white) so often seen near villages and farms
  • Darker in colour than the swallow and with a less forked tail
  • Generally feed at a higher level in the sky than swallows
Status: Occasional

House Sparrow

Passer domesticus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

Noisy, chattering group of birds around houses, parks and farms

  • Gregarious, noisy and active birds, always in flocks
  • Rarely seen away from human settlements
  • Now far less common than they once were
Status: Frequent

Jack Snipe

Lymnocryptes minimus

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A smaller compact version of the more familiar snipe 

  • Very similar in plumage to the snipe ut much smaller
  • Does not breed in Britain but overwinters here in small numbers
  • More likely to be on open saltmarsh than the snipe which is usually close to reeds
Status: Scarce

Jackdaw

Corvus monedula

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The distinctive 'jack-jack' call

  • Smaller than the rook and carrion crow and with a greying colouring to the back of the head
  • A gregarious bird often seen in largish flocks and often in the company of rooks
  • Can be seen feeding in fields, soaring over cliffs and marauding across downland 
Status: Frequent

Jay

Garrulus glandarius

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

The loud, harsh screech in woodlands

  • Most often seen flying away from you accomnpanied by a loud shriek!
  • Although a woodland bird you can also encounter it in parks and wooded gardens
  • The most colourful of the crow family, looking vaguely like a very large chaffinch!
Status: Occasional

Kestrel

Falco tinnunculus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A stationary bird hovering in the air

  • Once very common especially along roads but now less so
  • A chestnut brown back sets it appart from other falcons
  • Its amazing ability to hover is unique to birds of prey, others try but not like a kestrel
Status: Occasional

Kingfisher

Alcedo atthis

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Brilliant bright blue 

  • Bright blue on the back and bright orange on the front - quite unmistakable
  • Fast flying along rivers and also often perched above the water looking for fish
  • In winter often move down to the lower reaches of rivers nearer the sea
Status: Occasional

Kittiwake

Rissa tridactyla

Photograph by: Debby Saunders

Look for:

A medium sized gull off shore with slightly darker grey back and a forked tail

  • Always seen at sea rather than in harbours and inshore waters
  • Similar to a common gull but darker back and a slightly forked tail
  • There is no breeding colony in Dorset but they are long distance travellers and can be seen occasionally all year round  
Status: Scarce

Knot

Calidris canutus

Summer plumage

Photograph by: Peter Coe

Look for:

A large dunlin!

  • Seen in small numbers in Dorset during migration times but can be seen in any month out of the breeding season
  • A real challenge to the inexperienced bird watcher as they do not havy stand out features
  • The are closely related to dunlin and often associate with them and look like a bigger version! 
Status: Restricted

Knot

Calidris canutus

Winter plumage

Photograph by: Portland Bird Observatory

Look for:

A large dunlin!

  • Seen in small numbers in Dorset during migration times but can be seen in any month out of the breeding season
  • A real challenge to the inexperienced bird watcher as they do not havy stand out features
  • The are closely related to dunlin and often associate with them and look like a bigger version! 
Status: Restricted

Lapland Bunting

Calcarius lapponicus

Photograph by: Peter Coe

Look for:

A small bunting with a brown streaked back and kight grey underparts 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Lapwing

Alternative Name(s): Green Plover or Pee-wit
Vanellus vanellus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The green plumage, unique amongst waders

  • Probably no longer nests in Dorset and seen mainly as a winter visitor but nay be seen at any time of year
  • Usually in large flocks and make an impressive sight in flight
  • The have a particularly 'lazy' flight which gives them their most common name of the lapwing 
Status: Locally frequent

Leachs Petrel

Oceanodroma leucorhoa

Photograph by: Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group

Look for:

A seabird the size of a starling with dark brown plumage and a white rump

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Lesser Black-backed Gull

Larus fuscus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A herring gull with a dark back

  • The lesser black-backed gull is a close relative of the herring gull and they are very alike apart from the much darkerbark on the lesser black-backed
  • The lesser is smaller than the greater and has a paler, less intense black colouring
  • Not particularly common in Dorset and usually only seen in winter around our shores
Status: Occasional

Lesser Redpoll

Carduelis cabaret

Photograph by: Sacha Crowley

Look for:

A small finch with a dark brown back and red on the forehead and breast 

  • Slightly smaller than the redpoll and darker/browner
  • Much more likely to be seen during the winter months than the redpoll
  • Usually seen feeding on alder and birch seeds   
Status: Restricted

Lesser Whitethroat

Sylvia curruca

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A greyer warbler with a very conspicuous white throat

  • Has the same white throat as its relative, the common whitethroat, but is noticably greyer in colour
  • Prefers hedges and deep thicket with nearby trees to sing from
  • The song does not resemble that of the common whitethroat in any way 
Status: Occasional

Linnet

Carduelis cannabina

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

The hint of red in the breast feathers

  • Usually in large flocks outside of the breeding season
  • Will mix with other finches in large feeding parties
  • Hardly ever seen in garden, a bird of the open countryside 
Status: Restricted

Little Egret

Egretta garzetta

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A white heron with black bill and black legs

  • A rarity until the 1980's but now our most common heron/egret species
  • Always immaculately groomed in white but the black legs and bill distinguish it from other white egrets which also tend to be much rarer
  • Can now be seen not only on the coast but on rivers, lakes and ponds inland too  
Status: Frequent

Little Grebe

Alternative Name(s): Dabchick
Tachybaptus ruficollis

Winter plumage

Photograph by: Peter Coe

Look for:

Small rounded water birds constantly diving for food

  • Bright red/black breeding plumage and they can be seen on ponds and lakes during the breeding season
  • In winter they lose their colouration and become a drab brown and move to open water in harbours to feed
  • They are frequently diving and then coming up again some distance off and just as you get them in your binoculars they dive again
Status: Occasional

Little Gull

Larus minutus

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A typical gull but only the size of a blackbird 

  • Undoubtedly the smallest of the gulls usually seen around the Dorset coast
  • Although not breeding in Dorset they can be seen at any time of year
  • Often seen singly but amongst flocks of other gulls 
Status: Restricted

Little Owl

Athene noctua

Photograph by: Tony Furnell

Look for:

A small owl with a piercing stare!

  • Quite rare in Dorset, best known from Portland
  • Can be seen by day often hunting for worms and grubs
  • Was introduced to Britain in the 19th century and prospered at first but now seemingly declining 
Status: Scarce

Little Ringed Plover

Charadrius budius

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A smaller version of the more familiar ringed plover 

  • Just an inch shorter than the larger ringed plover and a more slender bird
  • Markings are very similar to the ringed plover with the back a little darker and the facial markings slightly less pronounced
  • More solitary that the ringed plover and less dependant on open sand or mud flats
Status: Restricted

Little Stint

Calidris minuta

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A tiny wader smaller, even, than a sparrow

  • The smallest wader likely to be seen in Dorset (apart from the rare Temminck's stint) 
  • An Arctic breeding species seen only here during the migration seasons, especially the autumn
  • It is though only 500 or so pass through Britain each year so it is not common!
Status: Scarce

Little Tern

Sterna albifrons

Photograph by: John Wall

Look for:

Small terns fishing over the Fleet and in Portland Harbour

  • One of the country's rarest breeding sea birds and found only in Dorset on the shingle of Chesil beach
  • Much smaller than other terns with a white forehead
  • Thanks to extreme efforts to protect them the Chesil colony is thriving and now growing in numbers 
Status: Local

Long-tailed Duck

Clangula hyemalis

Photograph by: Debby Saunders

Look for:

A duck with an unmistakable long tail 

  • A solitary winter visitor to sheltered saline waters around the Dorset coast
  • The long tail from which it gets its name is very distinctive
  • Although smaller than a mallard the long tail makes it seem bigger 
Status: Scarce

Long-tailed Tit

Aegithalos caudatus

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

The unmistakable long tail

  • Often seen in family feeding parties
  • Always on the move, never settle anywhere for long
  • Listen for constant tweeting noises in the decidous tress and shrubs
Status: Occasional

Magpie

Pica pica

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The distinctive long tail and laboured flight

  • Potentially found almost anywhere this is quite a ubiquitous crow
  • The marked black and white colouring is much more interesting when seen close up in sunshine
  • The long tail is unique in birds of this size and it makes the flight of the magpie look rather hard work!
Status: Frequent

Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos

Female

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A duck with blue/purple feathers in the wing  

  • Whilst our most commonly found duck it is not the most numerous as it never occurs in big flocks like wintering teal or wigeon
  • Present all year round but beware the 'eclipse' in autumn when the males lose their distinctive metallic green head feathers
  • Both male and female mallards have a group of blue/purple (depending on the light) in their wings which is constant throughout the year and is a distinguishing feature 
Status: Common

Mallard

Anas platyrhynchos

Male

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A duck with blue/purple feathers in the wing  

  • Whilst our most commonly found duck it is not the most numerous as it never occurs in big flocks like wintering teal or wigeon
  • Present all year round but beware the 'eclipse' in autumn when the males lose their distinctive metallic green head feathers
  • Both male and female mallards have a group of blue/purple (depending on the light) in their wings which is constant throughout the year and is a distinguishing feature 
Status: Common

Mandarin Duck

Aix galericulata

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A small truly 'ornamental' duck

 

  • This is a feral species that has probably escaped from a collection

  • It is only really only of interest for its curiosity value

  • However populations of these species need to be monitored to detect potential problems

Status: Feral

Marsh Harrier

Circus aeruginosus

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A large bird gliding over reed beds looking for prey

  • Now a breeding species in Dorset having succesfully raised young in a couple of locations
  • Numbers increase during the winter month with incoming migrant birds from further north
  • Associated with reed beds they can be seen flying low over the reeds looking for prey 
Status: Local

Marsh Harrier

Circus aeruginosus

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A large bird gliding over reed beds looking for prey

  • Now a breeding species in Dorset having succesfully raised young in a couple of locations
  • Numbers increase during the winter month with incoming migrant birds from further north
  • Associated with reed beds they can be seen flying low over the reeds looking for prey 
Status: Local

Marsh Tit

Parus palustris

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

Solid dark cap on bird the size of the a blue tit

  • Similar to the much rarer willow tit in appearance and much more likely to be encountered
  • A woodland species likely dense cover
  • Has a loud 'pitch-oo' call
Status: Restricted

Meadow Pipit

Anthus pratensis

Photograph by: Graham Jaggard

Look for:

A small 'thrush-like' bird with speckled breast

  • A declining nesting species in Dorset but seen in greater numbers during migration times
  • Although the 'meadow' pipit it is rarely found in meadows, usually on downs and moors, occasionally heaths
  • Our most common species of pipit but not that common these days 
Status: Locally frequent

Mediterranean Gull

Larus melanocephalus

Summer plumage

Photograph by: Frank Gardener

Look for:

A bird resembling a black-headed gull but with a truly black head

  • Difficult to tell apart from the black-headed gull in winter unless you ar experienced
  • In summer they have a jet black cap as opposed to the black-headed gull's chocolate brown face
  • Now nesting on Brownsea lagoon and at various other sites on the south coast
Status: Local

Mediterranean Gull

Larus melanocephalus

Winter plumage

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A bird resembling a black-headed gull but with a truly black head

  • Difficult to tell apart from the black-headed gull in winter unless you ar experienced
  • In summer they have a jet black cap as opposed to the black-headed gull's chocolate brown face
  • Now nesting on Brownsea lagoon and at various other sites on the south coast
Status: Local

Merlin

Falco columbarious

Photograph by: Aiden Brown

Look for:

 small bird of prey near heath or the coast

  • The smallest British falcon species
  • Although resident in Britain it is mainly seen in Dorset during the autumn and winter
  • Mainly seen in coastal location where they feed on small birds
Status: Scarce

Mistle Thrush

Turdus viscivorus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Taller, more upright version of the song thrush

  • A bird that likes short, fertile pasture and can be seen occasionally in parks and gardens
  • Larger than the similar song thrush and with a distinctly more upright stance
  • Usually seen in small groups of 5-10 unlike the more solitary song thrush 
Status: Occasional

Moorhen

Gallinula chloropus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The white in the fanned tail and also in the wing

  • They are not actually black but a dark brown and have distinctive white flashes, most noticeably in the tail which they display frequently
  • The have a red shield above the beak rather than the white if its close cousin, the coot
  • A fresh water bird seen mainly along slow moving rivers and next to shallow lakes and ponds   
Status: Frequent

Mute Swan

Cygnus olor

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A large white water bird with a RED (not yellow) bill

  • Seen in Dorset all year round but numbers do increase considerably in winter
  • In winter they can often be seen in large grazing parties in fields next to rivers
  • Look at the bill, if it is yellow and black and not red check out whooper and Bewick's swans
Status: Locally frequent

Nightingale

Luscinia megarhymchos

Photograph by: Simon Treasure

Look for:

The beautiful song that it delivers as the sunlight 

  • Sadly now almost gone from Dorset as a breeding species but a small number are sometimes seen on migration
  • Rarely seen in the breeding season as they live deep in dense thickets
  • Best known, of course, for its lovely song sung at dusk and during the night
Status: Scarce

Nightjar

Caprimulgus europaeus

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

Constant drilling noise on heathland at dusk

  • Nationally uncommon but still to be found on the Dorset heaths
  • A crepuscular species, atctive at dusk but not during the day
  • The 'song' is like a constant electric drill, unmistakable 
Status: Local

Nuthatch

Sitta europaea

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Streamlined. slate grey bird on woodland trees

  • Usually seen facing downwards on trees, one of the few birds to do this
  • Often visit seed feeders in gardens in winter where the garden is near woodland
  • Has a loud piping call in spring which gives its presence away 
Status: Frequent

Ortolan Bunting

Emberiza hortulana

Photograph by: Roger Hewitt

Look for:

A bunting with a darkish brown back and buff underparts  

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Osprey

Pandion haliaetus

Photograph by: Aiden Brown

Look for:

A large bird carrying a fish

  • Once seen only on migration but now some birds spend the summer around Poole Harbour and they are subject to a programme to encourage them to breed here
  • They have a unique ability to pluck fish from the water which they carry back to a favourite perch to eat
  • During migration times they can be seen almost anywhere along the Dorset coast
Status: Local

Oystercatcher

Haematopus ostralegus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The stout orange bill used to pierce open shells

  • Seen all year round in Dorset but numbers increase during the winter as immigrant birds arrive
  • They have loud, piercing call which can be heard from some distance
  • An unmistakable bird with the bill in particular a stand out feature
Status: Frequent

Pallas Warbler

Phylloscopus proregulus

Photograph by: Debby Saunders

Look for:

A tiny warbler just the size of a goldcrest with a beige facial stripe and wing bar 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Peregrine

Alternative Name(s): Peregrine Falcon
Falco peregrinus

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

Large fast flight often in free fall as it stoops for prey

  • Persecuted to near extinction but now seen regularly in Dorset
  • They breed on the Dorset coastal cliffs and also on high buildings in Bournemouth and possibly other towns
  • Strong flyers and once learned you never forget a peregrine in flight
Status: Occasional

Pheasant

Phasianus colchicus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A tall, elegant, mainly rustic brown bird on open farmland

  • Bred solely for shooting so seen only around country estates and farmland
  • Not actually that common in Dorset 
  • Tall, elegant birds but the female is much duller in colouration for camouflage purposes 
Status: Feral

Pied Flycatcher

Ficedula hypoleuca

Photograph by: Peter Coe

Look for:

The distinctive pied markings of the male

  • Does not breed in Doorset
  • Seen only on migration here but usually a good number reported
  • Usually seen at coastal locations where it stops off to feed after/before crossing the Channel 
Status: Scarce

Pied Wagtail

Motacilla alba yarrellii

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A small black/grey bird with a long tail that runs rather than hops

  • Noted as being the smallest bird that walks or runs rather than hops
  • Very active little bird always running around
  • Much more likely to be seen in Dorset than the very similar white wagtail
Status: Occasional

Pink-footed Goose

Anser brachyrhynchus

Photograph by: Internet Open Source

Look for:

A greylag-like goose with distinctive pink legs 

  • Superficially similar to many geese species but with pink legs
  • A smaller, more compact goose than the greylag
  • Most likely to be seen in wet meadows in river flood plains near the sea
Status: Very rare

Pintail

Anas acuta

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

An attractively marked duck with a pronounced pointed tail

  • One of the less common ducks to over winter in Dorset harbours
  • An attractive mixture of chocolate, yellow, white and grey colours
  • The main feature from a distance is its longish pointed tail after which it is named  
Status: Local

Pochard

Aythya ferina

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Ducks with a slightly triangular head and no neck!

  • Pochard tend to prefer fresh water locations and but can be found near the mouths of rivers
  • They seem to spend most of their time asleep just drifting around 
  • The reddish coloured head and grey flanks are diagnostic and from a distance they can appear to had a distinctly triangular head and no neck!  
Status: Local

Puffin

Fratercula arctica

Photograph by: Retweet

Look for:

The extraordinary multi coloured beak 

  • Quite a small bird, certainly smaller than its rekatives the guillemot and the razorbill
  • Always seen st sea offshore
  • There may be a very few nesting pairs on the Purbeck coast
Status: Scarce

Purple Sandpiper

Calidris maritima

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Well camouflaged  waders in amongst rocks at the coast

  • Not common but can be seen in small numbers in suitable habitat every winter
  • They are quite at home on exposed rocks by the sea and seem untroubled by incoming waves
  • Quite confiding, they are easy to watch as they tend not to fly off at the first sign of a person approaching 
Status: Restricted

Raven

Corvus corax

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A distinctive 'croak-croak' call from above

  • Much the largest of the crow family with a large, powerful beak
  • Once scarce in Dorset but now not uncommon along the coastal cliffs and also now further inland
  • Usually seen in flight, rarely on the ground, they are masters of aerobatic displays, especially in spring 
Status: Occasional

Razorbill

Alca torda

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

Very dark guillemot like birds with stout bills

  • Often seen in association with guillemots and do breed in small numbers along the cliffs of Dorset
  • Often seen floating on the water in small groups at the foot of cliffs
  • Has a darker back than the guillemot and has has a much heavier bill 
Status: Local

Red Kite

Milvus milvus

Photograph by: Roger Howell

Look for:

A soaring large bird with light patches on the underside of the wings that appears as if there are feathers missing

  • Whilst re-established as a breeding species in some parts of Britain the red kite does not yet breed in Dorset
  • Out of the breeding season they can be seen almost anywhere and a number are reported from Dorset each year
  • Although primarily carrion eaters they are persecuted by game keepers
Status: Occasional

Red-breasted Flycatcher

Ficedula parva

Photograph by: Roger Hewitt

Status: Rare

Red-breasted Merganser

Mergus serrator

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Offshore flotillas of what appear black and white ducks

  • Winter visitors to the harbours and seas around Dorset and very often seen in small groups, half a dozen or so
  • They may look black and white from a distance but the are green rather than black 
  • The feathers on their heads stand up and it looks like they need a good hair brush to sort them out!  
Status: Local

Red-crested Pochard

Netta rufina

Photograph by: Internet Open Source

Look for:

A duck with a red domed head

 

  • This is a feral species that has probably escaped from a collection

  • It is only really only of interest for its curiosity value

  • However populations of these species need to be monitored to detect potential problems

Status: Feral

Red-legged Partridge

Alectoris rufa

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Rounded, dumpy game bird around field margins

  • Bred solely for shooting and so most likely to be seen around country estates and farm fields
  • By far the most likely partridge to be seen now as the native grey partridge is now very scarce
  • Much more colourful than the grey partridge with distinctive white facial markings 
Status: Feral

Red-necked Phalarope

Phalaropus lobatus

Photograph by: Hellyhorro

Look for:

A bird like a grey phalarope but with a longer neck and a longer pointed bill 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Very rare

Red-throated Diver

Gavia stellata

Photograph by: Peter Coe

Look for:

A sleek cormorant-;like bird some distance offshore on open sea 

  • More likely to be seen open sea than the other two diver species
  • Often only visible when they fly
  • Smaller than the other two diver species
Status: Scarce

Redpoll

Carduelis flammea

Photograph by: Debby Saunders

Look for:

A finch with streaked brown plumage and red plumage above the beak on on the throat 

  • Slightly larger than the lesser redpoll and paler/greyer
  • Seen mainly on migration in Autumn but are also seen occasionally during the winter
  • Associated mainly with birch, alder and spruce trees  
Status: Restricted

Redshank

Tringa totanus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A wader with bright red legs

  • Can be seen anytime of year but numbers are significantly boosted by incoming birds during the autumn and winter
  • Can be seen on mudflats feeding at low tide and on saltmarsh during high tides
  • The red legs are diagnostic but note that the rarer spotted redshank also has red legs 
Status: Frequent

Redstart

Phoenicurus phoenicurus

Photograph by: Mike Morse

Look for:

The unmissable reddish colour when it flies

  • Very scarce nesting species in Dorset
  • Most frequent seen during the spring and autumn whilst on migration
  • The black face and red colouring of the male is totally diagnostic 
Status: Restricted

Redwing

Turdus iliacus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A song thrush-like bird with distinctive eye stripe and reddish flanks

  • A winter visitor from mainland Europe particularly if the weather is bad further north and east 
  • Tend to always seen in large flocks and often in the company of fieldfare (unlike the more solitary song thrush)
  • Superficially similar to a song thrush but with a distinctive eye stripe and reddish flanks
Status: Frequent

Reed Bunting

Emberiza schoeniclus

Male

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A bit of a 'sparrow' look-a-like near rivers and reed beds

  • The black head and white collar mark it out from other species
  • Although associated with rivers and reed beds they can be found almost anywhere in winter, often in flocks
  • The female lacks the black head but is otherwise similar to the male 
Status: Occasional

Reed Bunting

Emberiza schoeniclus

Female

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A bit of a 'sparrow' look-a-like near rivers and reed beds

  • The black head and white collar mark it out from other species
  • Although associated with rivers and reed beds they can be found almost anywhere in winter, often in flocks
  • The female lacks the black head but is otherwise similar to the male 
Status: Occasional

Reed Warbler

Acrocephalus scirpaceus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Long and frequent warbling song from reed beds

  • A common species in reeds and waterside vegetation
  • The song is more continuous than the shorter bursts of the sedge warbler
  • Few distinctive markings, best identified through its song 
Status: Locally frequent

Ring Ouzel

Turdus torquatus

Photograph by: Jackie Smith

Look for:

A blackbird with a white bib

  • A species that nests in the north of the British Isles and so only seen here during migration times
  • Closely related to the familiar blackbird and is much the same size although perhaps little slimmer
  • Close up it can be seen to be less densely black than the blackbird with lighter shades in the feathers 
Status: Scarce

Ring-necked Parakeet

Psittacula krameri

Photograph by: Retweet

Look for:

A green parrot 

 

  • This is a feral species that has probably escaped from a collection

  • It is only really only of interest for its curiosity value

  • However populations of these species need to be monitored to detect potential problems

Status: Feral

Ringed Plover

Charadrius hiaticula

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The conspicuous white and brown bands around the neck

  • The white and brown neck bands are visible from some distance away
  • Although a British breeding species they are most often seen in Dorset in autumn, winter and into the spring but they do also occur in summer
  • If you see a bird fitting this description but is much smaller check out the little ringed plover
Status: Locally frequent

Robin

Erithacus rubecula

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

Does anyone not know what a robin looks like!

  • Usually solitary and often harder to find in Augist and September
  • An alert little bird; look for their distinctive little 'bob' when they are perched on the look out
  • The only bird that sings in autumn and mid-winter 
Status: Common

Rock Pipit

Anthus petrosus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A meadow pipit in rocky habitats

  • Similar in appearance to the more common meadow pipit
  • Found exclusively on rocky shorelines, notably Portland and the Purbeck coast
  • The same species as the water pipit but found in totally different habitat 
Status: Local

Rook

Corvus frugilegus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The 'bare' or light coloured patch at the top of the beak

  • Always seen in large flocks, often with jackdaws, whereas crows are much more solitary
  • A scruffier bird than the sleek carrion crow and it appears to have baggy trousers
  • Nests in colonies that are very noisy with the rooks raucous calls
Status: Locally common

Roseate Tern

Sterna dougallii

Photograph by: Retweet

Look for:

A common tern with a black beak and very long tail streamers 

  • Nests in Ireland so is only an occasional visitor to Dorset
  • Similar to a common tern but lighter grey in colour with a black bill and very long tail streamers
  • Most likely to be see on sheltered shallow saline waters like the Fleet, Brownsea lagoon and Christchurch harbour 
Status: Scarce

Rough-legged Buzzard

Buteo lagopus

Photograph by: Portland Bird Observatory

Look for:

A buzzard with more grey on the underwings than a common buzzard 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Very rare

Ruff

Philomachus pugnax

Summer plumage

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A redshank-like wader with dark back, orange legs and small head

  • Winter visitors to Dorset in small numbers
  • About the size of a redshank but with a darker back, orange/yellow legs and small head
  • Tends to prefer scrapes and flooded meadows to more open tidal mudflats
Status: Restricted

Ruff

Philomachus pugnax

Winter plumage

Photograph by: Clive Templeton

Look for:

A redshank-like wader with dark back, orange legs and small head

  • Winter visitors to Dorset in small numbers
  • About the size of a redshank but with a darker back, orange/yellow legs and small head
  • Tends to prefer scrapes and flooded meadows to more open tidal mudflats
Status: Restricted

Sand Martin

Riparia riparia

Photograph by: Pam Parsons

Look for:

Brown versions of the house martin

  • Similar to the house martin but visibly browner on the back
  • Nests in gravel pits but feed over nearby rivers and lakes
  • Always communal and will be seen in good numbers where they occur 
Status: Occasional

Sanderling

Calidris alba

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Small waders running up and down the beach to avoid the incoming waves

  • More often seen in the migration months but occassionally seen in winter and summer too
  • Very much a wader of sandy beaches rather than mud flats
  • Often in small flocks and can be seen running up and down the beach as the waves come in to avoid getting their feet wet 
Status: Occasional

Sandwich Tern

Sterna sandvicensis

Photograph by: Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group

Look for:

Large fishing terns with black bills

  • Although migratory birds some individuals seem to stay around Poole and Portland Harbours all winter
  • Not a common British species but there is a good nesting colony on Brownsea Island lagoon
  • Larger than the common tern, with ruffled feathers on its head and a black bill and legs
Status: Locally frequent

Scaup

Aythya marila

Photograph by: Paul Watts

Look for:

A tufted duck on open saline waters

  • Similar to a tufted duck to which it is related but lacks the tuft and has a greyer back
  • Mainly a saltwater species whereas the similar tufted duck has an almost totally freshwater preference
  • A wintering diving duck usually seen offshore but also at closer quarters in Poole Harbour or, very occasionally, on reservoirs and gravel pits 
Status: Scarce

Sedge Warbler

Acrocephalus schoenobaenus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Short bursts of harsh warbling song from reeds

  • Often heard, less often seen
  • Similar to the reed warbler but with a more pronounced eye-stripe
  • The song is not unlike the reed warbler but comes in much shorter bursts
Status: Local

Shag

Phalacrocorax aristotelis

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Cormorants out on the open sea and perched on sea cliffs

  • The shag is superficially like a cormorant, a little smaller and lacking the white face (but only in adults!)
  • The shag, however, favours open sea and nests on rocky cliff fcaes whereas the cormaornat prefers estuaries and rives and water in land
  • If seen in good light the shag has glossy dark green/brown plumage and the males have a crest during the breeding season 
Status: Occasional

Shelduck

Tadorna tadorna

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

Big white ducks with a brown chest band

  • Seen most of the year but in lesser numbers in August and September with far greater numbers in winter when immigrant birds arrive
  • They are something between a duck and a goose in appearance
  • Primarily white but with a green head and a very distinctive brown chest band
Status: Locally frequent

Short-eared Owl

Asio flammeus

Photograph by: Peter Coe

Look for:

An owl active on winter days

  • Possibly the owl most likely to be seen in Dorset and yet it does not breed here
  • It is comfortable hunting by day which makes it quite visible
  • Every winter there are reports from various locations of wintering short-eared owls
Status: Restricted

Shoveler

Anas clypeata

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A duck with an oversized bill

  • Called shovelers because of the large shovel-like bill which they use to sieve water to extract food
  • Often seen in as a procession of three or four with the front one disturbing the water for the benefit of the followers 
  • Green and white with rust colored flanks
Status: Local

Siskin

Carduelis spinus

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

Small greenfinch-like bird with a dark crown

  • A seed eater in coniferous woodlands
  • Will visit gardens near conifer woodlands, feed facing downwards
  • Often seen in pairs and quite aggressive to other siskins and other birds
Status: Occasional

Skylark

Alauda arvensis

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The sound of its song coming from high above you

  • Now gone from much of the farmland in Dorset and found mainly on the open downs
  • In spring the male ascends vertically into the air singing as it goes 
  • Rarely seen on the ground because of the choice of location of their nests
Status: Occasional

Slavonian Grebe

Podiceps auritus

Photograph by: Edmund Mackrill

Look for:

A small black and white grebe offshore in winter

  • Similar to the black-necked grebe in appearance with detailed plumage variations
  • Less numerous in Dorset than the black-necked gerebe
  • Found mainly in sheltered saline waters rather than on the open sea
Status: Scarce

Smew

Mergus albellus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Greyish, small, compact ducks frequently diving

  • A very scarce, even rare, visitor to Dorset tending to be more numerous further east
  • Male and females very different in colour in summer but in winter much less so
  • There small, compact bodies are quite unlike most other ducks that you will see here 
Status: Rare

Snipe

Gallinago gallinago

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Brown waders with brown streaked backs and long pointed bills

  • Snipe are not uncommon in winter but are often quite difficult to see as they are well camouflaged and tend to blend with their surroundings
  • Although mud feeders they often shun open spaces and feed in channels amongst saltmarsh or around the edge of reed beds
  • If you see a very small version of the snipe check out the much rarer jack snipe
Status: Occasional

Snow Bunting

Plectophenax nivalis

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A pale brown streaked back and white underparts 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Song Thrush

Turdus philomelos

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The famous speckled breast

  • Much reduced population levels now and seen less often in gardens
  • Smaller than the mistle thrush and with a less upright stance
  • Most often seen now on a high perch singing its tuneful but repetitive refrains
Status: Occasional

Sparrowhawk

Accipiter nisus

Female

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

The lazy flap, flap, glide flight high in the the sky

  • Quick to locate bird feeding stations and raid them for prey means they can be seen in gardens
  • Amazing agility and turn of speed means they can be thriugh a garden anf out again without hardly being seen
  • When not on a hunting raid they can be seen flying high with a lazy flap-flap-glide wing beat
Status: Occasional

Spoonbill

Platalea leucorodia

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The enormous spoon shaped bill

  • Poole harbour is now one of the best place in the UK to see the spoonbill which is certainly increasing in numbers here
  • From a distance might be written off as a little egret but they are bigger, stockier birds
  • The yellowish/orange spoon shaped bill tells it apart from all other species 
Status: Local

Spotted Crake

Porzana porzana

Photograph by: John Wall

Look for:

A small brown coloured bird the shape of a moorhen

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

Spotted Flycatcher

Muscicapa striata

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The grey streaked breast

  • Once common around villages during the breeding season but now, alas, very scarce
  • More often seen on migration now rather than as a breeding species
  • Although 'spotted' it is actually 'streaked' brown on beige 
Status: Occasional

Spotted Redshank

Tringa erythropus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A greyer coloured redshank

  • Slightly larger than the common redshank, greyer in colour with a dark eye stripe
  • Far less common that the common redshank and more solitary
  • A an autumn and winter visitor to areas of mudflats around Poole and Christchurch harbours 
Status: Occasional

Starling

Sturnus vulgaris

Photograph by: Tony Furnell

Look for:

Flock of noisy birds either feeding on the ground or flying around

  • Now less common as a breeding species due to changes in farming and how we maintain our houses
  • Look drab brown from a distance but sparkle close up, especially in bright sunshine
  • Now well known for large flocks in summer that put on an amazing spectacle at dusk as they go to roost 
Status: Common

Stock Dove

Columba oenas

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A wood pigeon-like bird without the white neck collar and wing flashes

  • Slightly smaller than a wood pigeon and lacking the white markings
  • Like fields for ground feeding with nearby old timber for nesting
  • Much less common than the wood pigeon and not often seen in Dorset
Status: Restricted

Stonechat

Saxicola torquatus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The conspicuous white collar of the male

  • One of the most frequent species of the downs and of heaths
  • Often sit on gorse or bramble bushes
  • Make a distinctive sound like two stones being knocked together 
Status: Frequent

Storm Petrel

Hydrobates pelagicus

Photograph by: Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group

Look for:

A finch-sized seabird with sooty black back and distinctive white rump 

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Scarce

Swallow

Alternative Name(s): Barn Swallow
Hirundo rustica

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Fast flying birds with a forked tail

  • Tend to feed at lower levels than the similar house martin
  • Nest in barns and in open buildings so often seen around farms
  • In Dorset they can be seen in their thousands in September as they start to migrate southwards
Status: Frequent

Swan Goose

Anser cygnoides

Photograph by: John Wall

Look for:

A stocky and generally noisy goose!

 

  • This is a feral species that has probably escaped from a collection

  • It is only really only of interest for its curiosity value

  • However populations of these species need to be monitored to detect potential problems

Status: Feral

Swift

Apus apus

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A larger swallow-like bird with swept back wings

  • Now much less common i Dorset than they used to be and are most often seen on migration
  • Larger than a swallow ans with a different profile when seen from below
  • A late arriver and an early leaver - often May before they get here and can be gone by the end of July
Status: Occasional

Tawny Owl

Strix aluco

Photograph by: Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group

Look for:

The familiar hoot during the breeding season or during the day if one is disturbed

  • Surprisingly not that common in Dorset but there is not a lot of woodland in Dorset which is their preferred habitat
  • Mainly nocturnal so rarely seen, more often heard
  • May be seen at dusk hunting or sometimes they are caught in car headlights at night 
Status: Restricted

Teal

Anas crecca

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A small duck with a highly visibly yellow triangle in the tail

  • Large flocks overwinter in the harbours and sheltered waters of Dorset
  • Always found near salt water they feed mainly on open mudflats and in muddy channels in saltmarsh
  • Often dismissed as mallard but always occur in much larger flocks and are much smaller than a mallard but the yellow triangle in the tail is the ultimate differentiation between the two 
Status: Locally common

Tree Pipit

Anthus trivialis

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Parachute display in spring

  • In Dorset now mainly confined to the heaths
  • Usually found in open countryside with a scattering of trees that form song perches
  • They fly into the air and parachute downwards singing as they descend  
Status: Local

Tree Sparrow

Passer montanus

Photograph by: James Phillips

Look for:

A house sparrow with a totally chestnut rather than gery crown

  • Much less common than the house sparrow here and so far less likely to be seen
  • Very similar in plumage but the crown of the head is totally chestnut brown whereas the house sparrow in slate grey
  • More likely to be seen in open country and woodland scrub than near human settlements and farm buildings
Status: Rare

Treecreeper

Certhia familiaris

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A small bird climbing the bark of trees

  • Allthough I have seen them in conifers they are more usually seen in deciduous woodland habitats
  • Quite often you will see them fly between trees, down from one ready to start the climb up another
  • They always climb upwards whereas nuthatches can climb down tree trunks 
Status: Restricted

Tufted Duck

Aythya fuligula

Male

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The white flanks on a very dark coloured duck

  • Found all year round in Dorset but in much greater numbers in winter
  • Primarily a fresh water duck but can be found at the mouth of larger rivers in winter
  • Often in large colonies of as many as fifty birds in winter (look for pochard who are often with them)
Status: Frequent

Tufted Duck

Aythya fuligula

Female

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

The white flanks on a very dark coloured duck

  • Found all year round in Dorset but in much greater numbers in winter
  • Primarily a fresh water duck but can be found at the mouth of larger rivers in winter
  • Often in large colonies of as many as fifty birds in winter (look for pochard who are often with them)
Status: Frequent

Turnstone

Arenaria interpres

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

Smallish waders along the strand line turning over sea weed looking for flies

  • Quite common on shingle beaches and around rocks at low tide
  • They do turn stones over looking for food and are also keen on examining the strand line too
  • Seen all year but numbers are boosted by incoming migrants in the winter months 
Status: Frequent

Turtle Dove

Streptopelia turtur

Photograph by: Kevin Butler

Look for:

The gentle purring song coming from dense cover

  • Now sadly very rare everywhere with few nesting sites in Dorset
  • A little smaller than a wood pigeon but much browner and without the white markings
  • More often heard than seen with their gentle purring song quite unmistakable once learned 
Status: Scarce

Water Pipit

Anthus spinoletta

Photograph by: Mark Wright

Look for:

A rock pipit near water and not rocks!

  • Very difficult to tell apart from the rock pipit in appearance 
  • Different habitat preferences to the rock pipit is a guide but not necessarily definitive
  • Likes shallow scrapes on wet lands and is also often associated with watercress beds 
Status: Occasional

Water Rail

Rallus aquaticus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A pig-like squeal from reeded areas

  • Secretive birds that spend a lot of time in amongst reeds rarely emerging in to the open
  • They have a strange, almost unbird-like call, a bit like a squealing pig!
  • Present all year round and more likely to be seen in autumn/winter and heard in spring 
Status: Occasional

Waxwing

Bombycilla garrulus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Birds a little smaller than a starling with reddish colouring and a crest on their head 

  • Winter visitors; some years there are hardly any seen and in others there are large flocks
  • They eat berries and can be seen anywhere there is a tree with berries onit including parks and supermarket car parks!
  • Always in flocks and usually in severe weather 
Status: Rare

Wheatear

Oenanthe oenanthe

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

The white rump when it flies

  • One of the first migratory birds to arrive in spring and leave in autumn
  • Seen in open habitats and can be quite frequent here but it does not breed in Dorset
  • Distinctive markings but well known for its white rump that shows clearly when it flies 
Status: Frequent

Whimbrel

Numenius phaeopus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A curlew-like bird slightly smaller and with a distinct bend in the bill

  • Seen only on migration in early spring and in autumn altough some do occur during the summer months
  • Easily mistaken for curlew but the whimbrel is a little smaller and the bill is shorter with a distinct bend half way down
  • Not only seen feeding on mudflats but can also be seen on rock cliffs and other coastal habitats 
Status: Occasional

Whinchat

Saxicola rubetra

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A stonechat-like bird but more slender and lacking the white collar

  • Only seen on migration in Dorset, more often in autumn than spring
  • It is a much more slender bird than the stonechat and lacks the bold markings of the stonechat
  • Loves open scrubby habitat and rarely seen anywhere other than this
Status: Occasional

White Stork

Ciconia ciconia

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A very large white and black bird with long reddish legs

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Rare

White Wagtail

Mottacilla alba

Photograph by: Mike Morse

Look for:

A pied wagtail with a much paler grey back

  • The pied wagtail and the white wagtail are different races of the same species
  • The white wagtail breeds throughout mainland Europe and is seen here primarily on migration
  • Very difficult to separate these two in flight and are often just called alba wagtails 
Status: Occasional

White-fronted Goose

Anser albifrons

Photograph by: Internet Open Source

Look for:

A dark greylag-like goose with a white fringe around the base of the bill  

  • Smaller than a greylag with darker colouring
  • The white facial fringe around the bill occurs only in adults
  • Most likely to be seen in wet meadows by rivers near the sea 
Status: Rare

Whitethroat

Alternative Name(s): Common Whitethroat
Sylvia communis

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Harsh, continuous song coming from scrubby bushes on open countryside

  • Now more numerous and numbers recovering from severe losses on migration some years ago
  • Best found through its song but once seen the white throat stands out as the main feature
  • Browner than the lesser whitethroat, slightly larger and found in more open habitat
Status: Local

Whooper Swan

Cygnus cygnus

Photograph by: Mike Morse

Look for:

A large swan with a yellow and black bill

  • It has a yellow and black bill rather than red like the more common mute swan
  • Similar to the similar Bewick's swan but somewhat larger
  • Seldom seen in Dorset so take care with identifcation
Status: Rare

Wigeon

Anas penelope

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

The yellow/orange forehead on a maroon head with black and white in the tail

  • Large flocks in their hundreds over winter in the harbours and sheltered water of Dorset
  • They have a unique whistling call and is one of the best features of bleak coastal mudflats in winter
  • The white in the wings and tail is clearly visible from a distance, especially when they fly 
Status: Locally common

Willow Warbler

Phylloscopus trochilus

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Bird sat high in a tree singing a cascading musical song

  • Almost identical to the chiffchaff in appearance
  • Prefers more open wooded habitat to the chiffchaff
  • Has a lovely song of cascading, descending notes softer more 'musical' than many other birds
Status: Occasional

Wood Pigeon

Columba palumbus

Photograph by: Peter Orchard

Look for:

A large pigeon with what appears to be a white collar

  • Ground feeding birds seen in large flocks either in fields or in flight. especially in winter
  • The white collar is actually two separate white patches, one each side on the neck
  • The white flashes in the wings are also quite visible, especially in flight
Status: very common

Wood Sandpiper

Tringa glareola

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A small. delicate wader but with long legs

  • Has a dark mottled brown back and a white rump
  • Has long pale orange legs which help distinguish it from a redshank or greenshank
  • Almost invariably seen on migration in autumn 
Status: Scarce

Wood Warbler

Phylloscopus sibilatrix

Photograph by: Christchurch Harbour Ornithological Group

Look for:

A greenish coloured warbler a little larger than the others one commonly sees 

  • Wood warbler nest in wooded valleys in the hills of west and northern Britain 
  • They are seen in Dorset on their way north to breed in April and May
  • Strangely they are rarely seen on the southerly migration in autumn 
Status: Scarce

Woodlark

Lullula arborea

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Its circular display flight

  • In Dorset this a species of the heaths, often near conifer trees
  • It has a distinctive ciircular display flight in spring
  • Similar to the skylark to look at but very different in habitat and behaviour 
Status: Restricted

Wren

Troglodytes troglodytes

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Very small brown bird with distinctive upright tail

  • Often seen in gardens
  • Solitary birds in winter
  • Very loud song, once heard never forgotten
Status: Common

Wryneck

Jynx torquilla

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A small finch-sized bird that resemb;es a nightjar

 

  • This is a rare species and statistically you are unlikely to see it but if you do ...

  • Try and get a second opinion if you can and/or try to get the best photograph you can

  • Be sure to report the sighting to the Dorset Bird Club saying where you saw it and why you think it was this species

Status: Scarce

Yellow Wagtail

Motacilla flava

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A flock of wagtails near cattle

  • Not a breeding species here in Dorset
  • Seen, often in good numbers, during migration espeicially in autumn
  • The feed on insects and can often be found near cattle where they pick off insects feeding on cow pats 
Status: Locally frequent

Yellow-browed Warbler

Phylloscopus inornatus

Photograph by: Hamish Murray

Look for:

A small warbler with a distinctive yellow stripe above a dark eye stripe

  • A scarce but regular autumn visitor to Dorset with a small numer spending the winter here
  • The yellow strioe above the eye and a yellow bar in the wing help to identify it from other common small warblers
  • Usually seen in coastal locations and seemingly likes trees of the willow family
Status: Scarce

Yellow-legged Gull

Larus michahellis

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

A herring gull with yellowish legs feeding on its own rather than in a group

  • Hard to distinguish from a herring gull unless one is experienced and can spot the differences between the two
  • Mainly seen in autumn after the breeding season hs finished
  • Seemingly increasing its range northwards and being seen more often in Britain now
Status: Occasional

Yellowhammer

Emberiza citrinella

Photograph by: Ian Ballam

Look for:

Our only true native mainly yellow bird

  • Our only really yellow species of passerine bird
  • Famous for its 'little bit of bread and no cheeeeeese' song
  • Now nowhere near as common as it once was
Status: Occasional