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New Forest Birds

The New Forest is a home to many endangered species of birds. Its unique topography and diversity of habitat enable many creatures to use this area as a perfect breeding ground. Its eclectic collection of natural situations enable a broad range of creatures to call this home. Many species live in the New Forest all year round. Some are visitors and some live here permanently. Some come for the summer and others for the winter months. Because of the huge variety of habitats available in the New Forest, an extraordinary range of birds use the ancient broadleaved woodland, thick conifer enclosures, open heathland and low bog areas.

  • Chiffchaff - A small olive-brown warbler which actively flits through trees and shrubs, with a distinctive tail-wagging movement. Less bright than the similar willow warbler and readily distinguished by its song, from where it gets its name. Picks insects from trees and also flies out to snap them up in flight. They breed in deciduous and mixed woodland, stands of trees, parks and mature gardens where there is thick undergrowth. In the winter they like damp woodlands, parks and gardens. They can be seen all year round, but most arrive in late March and depart in August and September.
  • Curlew - The curlew is the largest European wading bird, instantly recognisable on winter estuaries or summer moors with its long down-curved bill, brown upperparts and long legs. There have been worrying breeding declines in many areas largely due to loss of habitat through agricultural intensification. It is a bird with important breeding and wintering populations in the UK. A ringing 'cour-li' call; a bubbling, trilling song.
  • Dartford Warbler - This small, dark, long-tailed warbler is resident in the New Forest. It can be found in the Burley area and at Denny Wood. It will perch on top of a gorse stem to sing, but is often seen as a small flying shape bobbing between bushes. For breeding it favours the heathland with gorse and heather. It especially likes heather over 30 cm long for nesting, with gorse thickets for feeding on insects. Bramble scrub, bracken and long grasses can also be used. It has a scratchy, warbling song; a scolding, churring call.
  • Green Woodpecker - This is the largest of the three woodpeckers that breed in The New Forest. It has a heavy-looking body, short tail and a strong, long bill. It is greeny-grey on its upperparts with a bright green rump and red on the top of its head. They have an undulating flight. They climb up tree trunks and branches and will move around to be on the side away from anyone watching. It has a very distinctive call in that it sounds like it is laughing.
  • Great Spotted Woodpecker - This is about blackbird-sized and striking black-and-white. It has a very distinctive bouncing flight and spends most of its time clinging to tree trunks and branches, often trying to hide on the side away from the observer. Its presence is often announced by its loud call or by its distinctive spring 'drumming' display. The male has a distinctive red patch on the back of the head and young birds have a red crown. Its call is often a single loud "kik-kik".
  • Lesser Spotted Woodpecker - This is the smallest and least common of the three woodpeckers that are resident in The New Forest. The male is distinguished from the female by his bright red crown. It tends to nest and feed higher up and is quieter in its tapping. Usually located by its call, and its drumming. When feeding it creeps along branches and flutters from branch to branch, flying with an undulating flight in the open. It has a soft "pee pee pee" call in contrast to the other woodpeckers.
  • Nightjar - These rare birds need bare ground to nest on and find this on heathland, commons and moors, as well as open woodland. They regularly use recently felled conifer plantations where the new planting has not grown up yet. They are also found on heathlands, moorlands, in open woodland with clearings. Nightjars are summer visitors to the UK, arriving from April and May from sub-Saharan Africa (and departing again between August and November). They are largely nocturnal, feeding mainly after dusk and before dawn on flying insects such as moths, beetles, crane flies etc. Nightjars range widely in search of suitable feeding sites travelling up to 6km from the nest site.
  • Nuthatch - This is a plump bird about the size of a great tit that resembles a small woodpecker. It is blue-grey above and whitish below, with chestnut on its sides and under its tail. It has a black stripe on its head, a long black pointed bill, and short legs. It breeds in the New Forest, and is resident, with birds seldom travelling far from the woods where they hatch. Mature deciduous woods, especially large oakwoods, wooded parks and gardens. Best looked for in mature woods and established parkland, on the sides of tree trunks and underside of branches. They are very common in the New Forest often raiding the bird feeders in many New Forest gardens. They are also know to use the old homes of woodpeckers in old oak or beech trees. Its call is a loud ringing ‘tuit, tuit, tuit-tuit’. Also a loud rattling ‘pee, pee, pee’ trill.
  • Whimbrel - The whimbrel is a large wading bird. It has longish legs and a long bill that curves near the tip. It is brownish above and whitish below. In flight, it shows a white ‘V’ shape up its back from its tail. It passes through the New Forest area in spring and autumn on its way from and to its wintering areas in South Africa from the north of Scotland where it breeds.
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