Star Bird Species

Here’s a detailed list of some of the species we are luck to get visiting Fairburn Ings. Learn what they look like and what time of year is best to look out for them.


Recurvirostra avosetta

Adult bird’s have white plumage with black cap and wing markings, blue/grey legs and long, upturned bill distinguish it from all other waders.

Visitor – March to September
Look for them on Main Bay islands from Bob Dickens hide or on Spoonbill Flash from Lin Dike hide. Newly arrived and passage birds like to gather on Hickson’s Flash.

Photo – Jimmy Shaw


Botaurus stellaris

Smaller and stockier than the heron, has black-streaked brown plumage which is puffed out during territorial calling. Legs are green.

Visitor – Can be seen all year round
Look out for these elusive visitors from the Roy Taylor Trail around the lagoons in late spring for feeding flights.

Photo – Keith Boyer


Fringilla montifringilla

Head and back are brown with orange-buff breast and shoulders and a yellow bill. Females are similar colour to males but a little bit duller.

Visitor – During cold winters will visit feeders
Look out for them at Pickup Hide, Feeder Station or around the visitor centre feeders.

Photo – Keith Boyer


Cuculus canorus

Adult birds are usually grey with the underparts normally being lighter in colour than upper parts, with heavy barring. Tail is long and rounded, with white patches. Head is small with a thin bill and their legs are yellow. Sexes are usually alike, but a few femles are rufous brown.

Visitor – April to July
Listen out for the ‘cuckoo-cuckoo’ along the coal tips and Lin Dike areas.

Photo – Alex Glendinning Aylward

Spotted Flycatcher

Muscicapa striata

The birds crown and breast is marked with streaks. It has mainly a grey-brown plumage. After catching a flying insect it usually returns to the same watching perch.

Visitor – A passage migrant sometimes seen early in breeding season May time but more frequently seen on its return journey in August.
Cut Lane and towards the Village Bay Viewpoint are strong places for viewing this migrant with occasional sightings around the Discovery Trail.

Photo – John Price


Anas querquedula

Adult males have a distinctive white eye-stripe on a mottled brown head. The female has a less prominent buff coloured eye-stripe and a much greyer-brown plumage than the male.

Visitor – Summer visitor usually seen July and August. They are occasionally seen in April too and sometimes breed.
The flashes, mainly new flash, are one of the best spots to this small duck. Cut area, from Charlie’s hide can also turn these birds up too.

Photo – Keith Boyer

Black-tailed Godwit

Limosa limosa

Adults in summer plumage have a russet brown neck and head. White under-tail coverts and a black tail. Adults in winter lack the russet brown and are instead grey.

Visitor – Common passage migrant between April and September.
The flashes is a good area to start looking for these waders, especially on Spoonbill Flash from Lin Dike.

Photo – Keith Boyer


Regulus regulus

Britain’s smallest bird, it has a distinctive crown pattern. The crest is yellow and has a deep orange centre that is only visible at close range. The upperparts are dull green with two pale wing-bars. The underparts are a whitish-buff.

Visitor – Can be seen at any time of year but best in winter as they occasionally join tit flocks.
Look our for them along the Riverbank Trail, Discovery Trail, Cut Lane and Arrow Lane (Lin Dike).

Photo – Ken Hulse


Bucephala clangula

Males have a striking black and white plumage, in good light its black head gives off a green sheen. It has a white spot on each cheek. The female had a brown head with a whitish-brown plumage. Both have a strong gold eye.

Visitor – Common in winter, recorded between October and as late as April.
Main and Village Bay, Cut Areas and any where around the flashes are great place to find this stunning duck.

Photo – Keith Boyer

Pink-footed Goose

Anser brachyrhynchus

Adult birds are slightly smaller than the Greylag and are distinguished by their pink feet. They have a pale grey back. At a distance they appear daintier than other geese.

Visitor – Winter visitor, between September and February are the best months for seeing them.
Skeins can be seen flying over at any part of the reserve listen out for their ‘wink-wink’ or ‘ang-ang’ as they migrate in large flocks. Scan the flocks of Greylag and Canadas as individuals occasionally reported amongst them.

Photo – Keith Boyer

Black-necked Grebe

Podiceps nigricollis

These grebes have a black neck with distinctive golden ear-tufts and reddish brown sides that identify the adults in breeding plumage. How you’d usually see them at Fairburn.

Visitor – Annually seen in spring (April) but occasionally breeds.
Look out for them on the lagoons around the coaltips from the Roy Taylor Trail.

Photo – John Price


Falco subbuteo

Adults have a slate coloured back, dark crown and black moustache. In flight, they have a short tail which distinguishes the from the Kestrel. Long wings and an angled back give them the impression of a giant swift. The one in the picture is of a young bird which lacks the strong russet tone to the vent of an adult.

Visitor – Summer visitor, seen between May and September.
Look out for them swooping through the skies over the flashes capturing dragonflies and the occasional swift.

Photo – Jon Buxton


Alcedo atthis

Adults birds have an iridescent blue-green upperparts and orange-chestnut cheeks and underparts. The have a white throat and neck, red feet and a long, dagger-like bill. The females bill is orange below whereas the males is all black.

Visitor – All year round.
The Kingfisher Screen that separates the Discorvery Trail from Redshale Road is the most popular place to see them. Also regular down the Cut.

Photo – Craig Storton


Sitta europaea

Plump and short tailed, with blue-grey upper parts, buff underparts and reddish flanks. It has a strong, pointed bill and black eye-stripe.

Visitor – Resident all year round in small numbers
Usually breeds in Newfield Plantation but is often seen during the winter months visiting the feeders around the visitor centre.

Photo – Joe Seymour


Haematopus ostralegus

Black head and back with a white belly and rump. These birds have a heavy orange bill unlike that of any other wader.

Visitor – As early as January to October
Charlie’s, Bob Dicken’s and Lin Dike hides are the best places to see these as they feed on the shallow edges and islands.

Photo – Keith Boyer

Little-ringed Plover

Charadrius dubius

Slim built with a yellow eye ring, and white line on forehead this distinguishes it from the slightly larger Ringed Plover. In flight the wings are plain and lacks the white bar of its ringed cousin.

Visitor – April to July these are a breeding summer migrant.
The best places to see this dainty wader is on Main Bay islands or on the water fringes from Lin Dike Hide.

Photo – Keith Boyer

Water Rail

Rallus aqauticus

Adults have a spotted black olive-brown back with dark blue-grey flanks. Its belly is barred black and white with a buff white rump you often see as it quickly disappears into cover. They have a deep red eye which goes with its long red bill.

Visitor – Seen all year round they are fairly common although very elusive.
Anywhere on the flashes and the coaltips are great areas to look for the secretive birds. Listen out for their pig like squeeling.

Photo – Craig Storton


Carduelis spinus

Adult males have a yellow-green rump and yellow tail patch similar to that of the greenfinch although the siskin is a bit smaller. Males also have a black crownand chin. Females are more streaked and less yellow than males and lack the black crown and chin.

Visitor – Seen between October and March these are regular winter visitors.
Look out for the feeding in treetops, mainly Alder, around the discovery trail and along the Riverbank Trail between Bob Dicken’s and Village Bay Viewpoint of mixing with Redpolls.

Photo – Keith Boyer


Mergus albellus

Adult male’s mainly white plumage with black naped band, eye patches and breast lines make them very unique. Females have white cheeks with a chestnut capand grey upper parts often known as the redhead smew they are similar to first winter birds.

Visitor – Winter visitors in small numbers
Scan Spoonbill Flash, Main and Village bays for these increasingly scarce visitors.

Photo – Keith Boyer


Platalea leucorodia

Unmistakable at close range; all white plumage, with a spoon shaped stout bill, yellow to the tip. They have a bushy crest with an amber breast patch.

Visitor – Formally rare this is becoming an annual summer breeder. March to September are the best months to look out for them.
View them from the north side of the Roy Taylor Trail, where a specially made viewing point has been set up by the RSPB over looking the Moat. Ask in the Visitor Centre for more details.

Photo – John Price

Whooper Swan

Cygnus cygnus

Adult Whooper Swans have a triangular head, and it carries its neck straight. The yellow patch on the bill is more angular that that of the Bewick’s Swan.

Visitor – Irregular during winter months between October and February.
Unlike the Mute Swans listen out for the Whoopers as they are highly vocal when flying over during migration. Sometimes stops on Main Bay and the flashes.

Photo – Tony Jenkins

Bearded Tit

Panurus biarmicus

Males have a tawny body with a grey head and black moustaches. Females have a brown head and lacks the moustaches.

Visitor – Resident all year round
Mainly seen on the North and South lagoons from the Roy Taylor Trail. Listen out for the pings coming from the reeds locate these and patiently wait for the to climb to the top of a single reed in calm weather.

Photo – Joe Seymour

Willow Tit

Poecile montanus

Adults are identified by their pale wing patches and sooty, matt black feathers on its crown. The Willow Tit favours damp woods with decaying trees like Willow, Birch and Alder where they prefer to nest.

Visitor – Present all year round
Frequent visitors to the feeders around the Visitor Centre and at Pickup Hide.

Photo – Ken Hulse

Cetti’s Warbler

Cettia cetti

Uniform red above and a dusky greyish-white below. Short necked and broad tailed distinct pale supercilium. Bill is pointed.

Visitor – Present all year round they are more voval than they are seen.
Lots of territories. Listen out for them around the flashes, coal tips and along Cut Lane.

Photo – Craig Storton


Bombycilla garrulus

A buff brown bird with a crest, a black throat and yellow tip to its tail. It derives its name from the unusual waxy looking red tips to its upper flight feathers.

Visitor – Occasional during winter between November and March.
Could turn up anywhere on the reserve in flocks or single birds feeding on berries such as dog rose, juniper, guelder rose, holly and hawthorn.

Photo – Joe Seymour

Green Woodpecker

Picus viridis

Adults have green upperparts with a red crown. The males moustache is red whereas the females is black. Their stiff tail feathers act as a prop whilst they are climbing. Usual feed on the ground mainly on any hills.

Visitor – Seen at any time of the year.
Look out for the flying up from the grassy areas around the Roy Taylor Trail and Redshale Road. If your lucky you may see them perching on the fence posts or the trees.

Photo – Craig Storton

The Fairburn Bird Checklist