10 birds to spot on the Wales Coast Path 

From otters to orchids, puffins to peregrine falcons and dolphins to damselflies, Wales has more wildlife than you can point a very large pair of binoculars at. But it’s the region’s sea birds that provide one of the biggest draws of the Welsh Coast for fans of the natural world.

  • Pair of cormorants sitting on the rocks on Anglesey
    Cormorants by Jeff & Jan Cohen

    Where to see them: Puffin Island, Anglesey, North Wales
    As well as sheltering grey seals, Puffin Island is home to a huge colony of cormorants – for which the island is a Special Protection Area. A supreme fisher, these marine birds are a sight to see on the cliffs of island. There are also increasing numbers of black guillemots and puffins here. Boat tours around the island are available throughout the summer from Beaumaris pier – find out more about the RSPB tour of Puffin Island.

  • Gannets on Grassholm, Pembrokeshire
    Gannets on Grassholm, Pembrokeshire by jhsat

    Where to see them: coastal areas, especially near Grassholm Island, Pembrokeshire.
    These bright white seabirds are a common sight around the Welsh coast and you’ll know them for their plunging dives from great heights. One place you’re sure to spot them is around the coast near Grassholm Island in Pembrokeshire. That’s because this tiny piece of rock is home to the third largest colony of gannets in the world – roughly 39,000 pairs.

  • Artic Tern

    Arctic Tern

    Where to see them: North Wales coast
    White with a black cap, the arctic tern is also known by its local name ‘sea swallow’ and they really are extraordinary birds. Arctic terns can live up to 30 years. And in their long life scientists reckon they make the equivalent of three round trips to the Moon. North Wales is the best place to spot them, particularly the Cemlyn Nature Reserve on Anglesey.

  • Manx shearwaters flying over the sea near Skomer, Pembrokeshire
    Manx shearwaters near Skomer, Pembrokeshire by Clint__Budd

    Where to see them: Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, West Wales
    Anyone walking round the Wales Coast Path should keep their eyes peeled for the manx shearwater – although they may not have to look too hard. Wales has half the world’s population, with Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire supporting 120,000 breeding pairs and Bardsey Island, just off the Llyn Peninsula, home to a further 16,000 pairs. This medium sized seabird is black on top and white below and has a distinctive ‘shearing’ form of flying, with stiff wings and few wing beats.

  • Bearded Tit, Cosmeston photo by Capt' Gorgeous, from Flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/ben_salter/3170652742/

    Bearded Tit, Cosmeston, Vale of Glamorgan

     by Capt' Gorgeous

    Where to see them: RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve
    Despite its name, this brown, long-tailed bird is a ‘parrotbill’, not a close cousin of our familiar blue and great tits. The ‘beard’ refers to the black markings on the male’s face (although they look more like handlebar moustaches). Found only in reedbeds, bearded tits have a small population of around 550 breeding pairs in the UK, mainly in the east of England, but recently the RSPB Newport Wetlands Reserve has become home to them.

  • Chough on the rocks, on Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire
    Chough on Ramsey Island, Pembrokeshire by South West Wildlife

    Where to see them: from Pembrokeshire to Anglesey
    The chough’s Welsh name, Brân Goesgoch, literally means ‘red-legged crow’ – and that’s what it is. Usually seen along the coast, the chough is the rarest member of the crow family. The UK has just a few hundred pairs, with three-quarters of them living in Wales. You may hear them before you see them though – they have a distinctive call. A great place to find them is at the RSPB’s South Stack Cliffs, in North Wales.

  • Red kite flying over Bird Rock, Gwynedd

    Red kite flying over Bird Rock, Snowdonia

     by Howie Mudge

    Where to find them: mainly in the Mid Wales
    One of the best places to see red kites is Mid Wales, although they have spread from their stronghold out to areas of the coast, particularly Ceredigion. Keep your eyes open wherever you are, and if you want the quintessential kite experience, peel off the path and head inland to see them being fed at Gigrin Farm, or flying over the lakeside cafe at Bwlch Nant Yr Arian.

  • Male osprey flying to the nest, Dyfi Osprey Project, Powys

    Male osprey, Dyfi Osprey Project, Mid Wales

     by Finiky

    Where to find them: Glaslyn Estuary or Machynlleth
    The osprey is one of the most recent, and certainly one of the most spectacular, birds to recolonise Wales. Your chances of seeing one along the route of the Wales Coast Path are much enhanced by publicly-viewable pairs at the Welsh Wildlife Trusts Cord Dyfi Osprey Project near Machynlleth.

  • Stone Chat photo by m0untainpenguin from Flickr

    Stonechat in North Wales 

     by m0untainpenguin

    Where to find them: anywhere along the cliffs – try the Glamorgan Heritage Coast
    This little bird is a common sight on the Welsh coast as they thrive in coastal vegetation. The adult male has a distinctive black head and, while the birds are sometimes shy, they do love to let you know they’re around. In fact, you may well hear a Stonechat before you see one, listen out for a sharp, loud call, like two stones being tapped together. they can be found along the cliffs and shingled stretches.

  • Peregrine falcon at the Mid Wales Falconry Centre
    Peregrine falcon at the Mid Wales Falconry Centre by jayneboo

    You’ll need all your wits about you to hone in on one of these beautiful birds of prey, Britain’s largest falcon. That’s because the peregrine is one of the fastest animals on earth, reaching speeds of 200 miles per hour while diving for prey. Peregrine falcons thrive in coastal areas (as well as, increasingly, urban centres) – and while you might encounter one anywhere along the coast, the beaches of Mwnt and Llangranog in Cardigan Bay are great places to start.

Find more about Welsh wildlife