Wales (Welsh: Cymru) is a country that is part of the United Kingdom and the island of Great Britain. It is bordered by England to the east, the Irish Sea to the north and west, and the Bristol Channel to the south. It had a population of around three million people (2011) and has a total area of just over eight thousand square miles. It has over 1,680 miles of coastline and is largely mountainous, with its higher peaks in the north and central areas, including Snowdon (Yr Wyddfa), its highest summit. The country lies within the north temperate zone and has a changeable, maritime climate wetter than eastern Britain.
Wales has been described as a land of peaks and plateaux dissected by river valleys to which one must quickly add and a superb coastline. Although primarily upland, some 60% lies above the 500 foot (150m) contour, Wales is also a maritime country bounded on three sides by the sea.
Wales has three national parks: Snowdonia, Brecon Beacons and Pembrokeshire Coast. It has five Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty; Anglesey, the Clwydian Range and Dee Valley, the Gower Peninsula, the Llŷn Peninsula, and the Wye Valley. The Gower Peninsula was the first area in the United Kingdom to be designated as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, in 1956. Forty two percent of the coastline of south and west Wales is designated as Heritage Coast, with 13 specific designated strips of coastline maintained by Natural Resources Wales (successor body to the Countryside Council for Wales).
Wales’ wildlife is typical of Britain with several distinctions. Because of its long coastline Wales hosts a variety of seabirds. The coasts and surrounding islands are home to colonies of gannets, Manx shearwater, puffins, kittiwakes, shags and razorbills. In comparison, with 60% of Wales above the 150m contour, the country also supports a variety of upland habitat birds, including raven and ring ouzel. Birds of prey include the merlin, hen harrier and the red kite, a national symbol of Welsh wildlife. In total, more than 200 different species of bird have been seen at the RSPB reserve at Conwy, including seasonal visitors.[
The bird of Wales is without question the Red Kite. For many years the only ones in Great Britain were the handful clinging on, and only just, in a few remote Welsh valleys. Its fortunes monitored, and protection provided, for almost a century by a dedicated band of watchers to whom we should be eternally grateful. Their efforts have been well rewarded for now one can enjoy watching Red Kites across much of the heartland of Wales.
These same inland valleys, often with superb woodlands, also have other specialities such as Redstarts, Wood Warblers, Pied Flycatchers and Ravens. On many streams and rivers Goosanders, Kingfishers, Grey Wagtails and Dippers can be seen while Little Ringed Plovers nest on some gravel banks.
There are fine estuaries for wildfowl and waders, the Dee and Severn shared with England, but others wholly Welsh like the Burry Inlet, the Dyfi and the secret creeks round Milford Haven. Then the wild rocky coasts haunt of Peregrine and Chough, and headlands both north and south from which one can marvel at passage seabirds. Last but certainly not least the magical Welsh islands. Indeed you cannot really claim to know birds in Wales until you have spent at least a night on Skokholm or Skomer to see and hear the Manx Shearwaters. After all perhaps half the worlds’ population of this remarkable seabird nests on these two Pembrokeshire islands.
Top Welsh Bird Watching Sites
Everyone will have their own choice, so it has been extremely difficult to narrow it down to this list. You will find more detail on each Welsh county pages.
(You can, of course, always dip into a copy of Where to Watch Birds in Wales by our contributor David Saunders - Fatbirder)
Fatbirder has pages for each of the new welsh administrative districts, rather than the old vice counties or previous large scale divisions so visiting or resident birders can see where their local reserves etc are. However, records continue to be collated by recorders in each of the old ceremonial counties.
Author - Where to Watch Birds in Wales
Milford Haven, Pembrokeshire
Number of Species
Number of bird species: 438
National Bird - Red Kite Milvus milvus [There is not, as far as we know, a national bird for Wales - however, great prominence has been given over many decades to the fact that the UK's remnant population of Red Kites hung on in mid-wales long after the English and Scottish populations had been extirpated by man - surely then the Red Kite deserves to represent Wales] Thanks to introductions in England and Wales the population is even greater and more genetically diverse.
Fatbirder Associate iGoTerra offers the most comprehensive and up to date birds lists on the web
Fieldguides & Other Birding Books
For a full list of fieldguides and other books see the general UK page
Birds in Wales
by R Lovegrove, G Williams and I Williams | A&C Black | 2011 | Hardback | 350 pages, 100 line illus, 17 maps
ISBN: 9781408137925Buy this book from NHBS.com
Collins BTO Guide to British Birds
by Paul Sterry & Paul Stancliffe, Illustrated by Simon Gillings | Harper Collins | 2015 | Paperback | 320 pages, 1200+ colour photos, colour illustrations, colour distribution maps
ISBN: 9780007551521Buy this book from NHBS.com
In Search of Birds in Mid-Wales
Brian O'Shea & John Green | Paperback | 1992 | Artery Media Production
ISBN: 0951390902Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Breeding Birds of North Wales | Adar Nythu Gogledd Cymru
Edited by Anne Brenchley, Geoff Gibbs, Rhion Pritchard & Ian M Spence | Hardback | Sep 2013 | Liverpool University Press | 448 pages, 200 colour photos and colour illustrations, colour distribution maps
ISBN: 9781846318580Buy this book from NHBS.com
The Crossley ID Guide: Britain & Ireland
Richard Crossley and Dominic Couzens | Princeton University Press | Paperback | Oct 2013 | 304 Pages | 310 Plates with Colour Photos250 Colour Distribution Maps |
ISBN: 9780691151946Buy this book from NHBS.com
Where to Watch Birds in Wales
by David Saunders and Jon Green | Christopher Helm | 2008 | Paperback | 352 pages, 70 maps, 45 line drawings
ISBN: 9780713674842Buy this book from NHBS.com
Record Keeping in Wales
There are now four Local Records Centres (LRCs) in Wales. Together they collect, collate, disseminate and manage biodiversity information for the whole of Wales. To find your local record centre see the interactive map on this website which will take you to the four record areas.
Biodiversity Information Service for Powys & Brecon Beacons National Park
The Biodiversity Information Service provides a mechanism for collating, sharing and utilising the wealth of biological data and knowledge, which exists in this part of Wales. The aim of BIS is to make information on wildlife, their habitats and important sites, readily available to those who need it. This will ensure that decisions, which may affect the natural heritage in the Powys and Brecon Beacons National Park area, are made with the best available knowledge.
The BTO’s strength in Wales is a testimony to the efforts of volunteers. For many years, the BTO’s Honorary Wales Officer, John Lloyd, and our team of volunteer Regional Representatives have promoted the Trust’s work and led on training and recruiting birdwatchers to take part in surveys. We will be providing far more support with the opening of the BTO Cymru office at Bangor University. The office is staffed by Dr. Rachel Taylor, Senior Research Ecologist, and Kelvin Jones, Development Officer.
Cofnod - the Local Environmental Records Centre for North Wales
Cofnod is one of four Local Environmental Records Centres (LERCs) in Wales and forms part of the first national network of LERCs anywhere in the UK. Our name, which means 'a record' in Welsh, was chosen to reflect the importance of observing and recording wildlife, with the creation of a record being the starting point for all the data we hold. Our task is to bring together all these individual records into a centralised database, allowing us to have better knowledge of the environment in which we live.
Cymdeithas Adarydda Cambria - Cambrian Ornithological Society
COS is the county bird club for northwest Wales and produces the annual Cambrian Bird Report for the counties of Caernarfon, Anglesey and Meirionnydd. COS is affiliated to the Welsh Ornithological Society, which hosts these pages.
Cymdeithas Adaryddol Cymru - Welsh Ornithological Society
This home site of the Welsh Ornithological Society's purpose is to give a true and up to date reflection on the status of ornithology in Wales.
South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre - SEWBReC
South East Wales Biodiversity Records Centre (SEWBReC) is the centre for the collation, management and dissemination of biodiversity data for South East Wales. Our aim is to make appropriate local biodiversity information available to all those who need it, to help ensure that decisions which affect local biodiversity are made using best available data.
Welsh Kite Trust
Croeso Mawr – Welcome to the Welsh Kite Trust, the charity dedicated to the conservation of the red kite and other raptor species in Wales. Our achievements are made possible by high quality scientific research and monitoring, many thousands of hours of dedicated voluntary effort and the generous donations of our supporters.
West Wales Biodiversity Information Centre
The West Wales Region has a wealth of protected sites including Wales’ only Biosphere reserve, the Dyfi Estuary, bordering Ceredigion and Gwynedd, and the only Marine Nature Reserve, around the island of Skomer off the Pembrokeshire coast.
Abbreviations Key: See the appropriate Continent Page (or Country Page of those used on country sub-divisions)
NP Brecon Beacons
The Brecon Beacons is a mountain range in South Wales. In a narrow sense, the name refers to the range of Old Red Sandstone peaks which lie to the south of Brecon. Sometimes referred to as 'the central Beacons' they include South Wales' highest mountain, Pen y Fan. The range forms the central section of the Brecon Beacons National Park (Parc Cenedlaethol Bannau Brycheiniog), a designation which also encompasses ranges both to the east and the west of 'the central Beacons'. This much wider area is also commonly referred to as 'the Brecon Beacons', and it includes the Black Mountains to the east as well as the similarly named but quite distinct Black Mountain to the west. The highest peaks include Fan Brycheiniog to the west and Pen y Fan in the central part. They share the same basic geology as the central range, and so exhibit many similar features, such as the north-facing escarpment and glacial features such as lakes and cwms (cirques) below the escarpment. They all fall within the border of the national park.
NP Pembrokeshire Coast
It was established as a National Park in 1952, and is the only one in the United Kingdom to have been designated primarily because of its spectacular coastline.
Snowdonia (Welsh: Eryri) is a mountainous region in north west Wales and a national park of 823 square miles (2,130 km2) in area. The park is governed by the Snowdonia National Park Authority, which is made up of local government and Welsh representatives, and its main offices are at Penrhyndeudraeth. Unlike national parks in other countries, Snowdonia (and other such parks in Britain) are made up of both public and private lands under central planning authority. While most of the land is either open or mountainous land, there is a significant amount of agricultural activity within the park.
Forums & Mailing Lists
Guides & Tour Operators
Birds of Snowdonia
Immerse yourself in the most beautiful scenery the British Isles has to offer. Welcome to Snowdonia, land of myths and legends, with the National Park covering over 800 square miles. Where else can you find beautiful valleys, snow capped mountains, stunning lakes and rivers, not to mention the unrivalled beaches?
A UK-based company specialising in bird watching tours of Norfolk and Wales, and a wide range of other UK destinations, a comprehensive programme of tours worldwide. Neil Donaghy and Ashley Saunders have over nineteen years experience between them, running their own companies Celtic Bird Tours and Oriole Adventures, before merging the two to create this new venture which offers complete bird tour packages. Value for money, genuinely small groups and great birds.
Shearwater Coastal Cruises - Pelagics
Shearwater is a large, stable luxury charter boat conducting seabird watching tours along the beautiful coast of the Lleyn Peninsula, from Pwllheli…
Thousand Islands Expeditions
Discover a magical island wilderness coupled with the fun and excitement of a true marine adventure. Take a boat trip and visit the Pembrokeshire Islands of Ramsey, Skomer or Grassholm and witness some of the most powerful currents in Britain, pass beneath some of the highest sea cliffs in Wales, see spectacular breeding colonies of hundreds of nesting seabirds. Ramsey Island is home to one of the UK's largest Atlantic Grey Seal colonies, hundreds of seal pups are born on Ramseys beaches from late August to October.
CloudBirders was created by a group of Belgian world birding enthusiasts and went live on 21st of March 2013. They provide a large and growing database of birding trip reports, complemented with extensive search, voting and statistical features.
2010 [05 May] - Pat & Judy Hayes
Having cut our early birding teeth between the Dovey and Mawddach estuaries or from Barmouth to just south of Aberdyfi, it is an area we periodically return to and one we feel we know as well as any…
2017 [05 May] - Nick Upton
With time on my hands a good weather forecast I was able to spend four days in North Wales looking for species that I seldom seen on my visits to UK, including a few scarce breeding species that I have not seen for many years. I started on the island of Anglesey, visiting RSPB South Stack, Holyhead Harbour and Penmon Point for seabirds and Red-billed Chough before moving on to The Spinneys Local Nature Reserve near Bangor and Aber Falls to look for scarce woodland species. I then visited RSPB Ynys Hir, again for woodland species, before finally ending up at the strangely named World’s End, close to Wrexham, where moorland and woodland species can be found, with a highlight being lekking Black Grouse.
Places to Stay
Menai Holiday Cottages
Menai Holiday Cottages is a small and successful business, privately owned and run letting over 300 self-catering properties throughout North Wales...
Our family-run self catering holiday cottages in Wales are situated on the home farm of the historic Plas Cilybebyll Estate, between Brecon Beacons National Park and Gower Peninsula.
Our 2001 brochure contains an excellent selection of over 200 holiday cottages in Pembrokeshire and North Wales providing a wide range of coast and country holiday locations and self-catering accommodation.
National Museum of Wales
Database of the mounted animals available for loan at the National Museum & Galleries of Wales. This database has been created to provide information on the mounted animals that the museum holds which are suitable for loan. Information provided is limited to: the scientific name and hierarchy; the common name; the nature and condition of the specimen; and the donor/vendor. Images are limited at the moment but it is hoped to add more in the future. It is aimed at those wishing to see what the museum holds with a view to loaning specimens or wishing to see if we hold specimens collected by a certain individual or prepared by a particular taxidermist. Most of the specimens have little information on collection locality or date, although future versions will be updated as what information we have is checked.
Alex H-Jones - Birding North Wales
I am a keen birdwatcher and enjoy visiting local sites whether it is to patch or twitch for birds. I am currently in university but still find time to birdwatch around…
Chris Bridge - Chris's Bird Ringing
Last updated 2012 - A diary and photo diary of my ringing training in North Wales, consisting mainly of waders and passerines.
Paul Shenton - The Black Grouse
Last updated 2012 - The purpose of this blog is to provide a regular update of bird and nature sightings across Clwyd, plus news and views on all things wild and beyond…
South Wales Birding
A blog for birders across South Wales…
Birds in Wales
Members of the BBC Wales Nature Flickr group have taken photographs of over 80 species of birds in Wales. If you need to identify a bird you've seen, or you're a birdwatcher, a photographer, or just want to delight in Wales' wealth of wildlife, you can check out our great shots. This isn't an exhaustive collection of course, so if you've got photos you'd like to share, please join us on the group…
Ringing and Birding in North Wales
Fascinating BLOG with excellent pics of birds in the hand…
Photographers & Artists
Photographer - Chris Thomas - British Bird Photography
Take a look at the Latest British Bird Pictures which has all the most recent bird pictures that Chris has taken. Also why not check out the British Bird Slide Show to browse the pictures at your leisure.
Photographer - Raymond King - Welsh Wildlife
Photos from south and west Wales…