Solent Wildlife Series: Part 3, Birds

By Hannah Cooper, Campaign Assistant

 In our previous two blog posts (habitats and sealife), we explored some of the amazing habitats and marine wildlife that we have here on our South Coast. But now we would like for you to turn your eyes to the skies of the Solent and join us to learn about the fantastic birds that we can see in our area. Here are our favourites…

Brent Geese

The incredibly diverse habitats of the Solent have made it an ideal place for brent geese to settle during the winter. They migrate from chilly Siberia where they breed over the summer to the Solent where the climate is milder during the winter months. The populations of brent geese in the Solent are very important as the species is vulnerable and has a low population. The Solent as a whole, during the winter, is home to approximately 10-13% of the world’s population of brent geese, so protecting their habitat is vital. You can find out more about how the government plan to look after these amazing birds in our area here.

Brent Geese by Bob Brewer

Curlew

Like the brent geese, curlews also visit the Solent in the Winter from colder northern regions. They are recognisable by their long bills that curve downwards. This shape helps the bird feed on small shellfish, worms and shrimps that live on the mudflats of the Solent. Unfortunately, like the brent geese, curlew populations have also been declining and the species have been put on the Red list for UK birds. Curlew can be spotted In Chichester and Langstone Harbours as well as Beaulieu Estuary and Southampton Water.

Curlew photo by Joshua J. Cotten on Unsplash

Dunlin

The dunlin and the curlew are very similar birds, both waders on the UK Red list and both can be found along our South Coast during the winter. There are some differences though. For example, dunlins are much smaller, as they measure in at just 16-20cm in length compared to the 50-60cm length of the curlew. They can be spotted across the Solent in places such as Farlington Marshes, where they feed in flocks of up to 1000. It is being observed, though, that dunlin populations may be moving north as a result of climate change.

Dunlin, image (c) Charles J Sharp

Black Tailed Godwit

The black-tailed godwit is a very important species in the Solent, as not only do we have around 44,000 of them that come from Iceland during the Winter but there is also a small population of the birds that call the Solent home all year round. This is one of the reasons that the Solent has been designated as a European Special Protection Area. Black-tailed godwits are also one of the few Schedule 1 birds that we have in our area. Schedule 1 means it is an offence to disturb an active nest of these birds through intent or recklessness, according to the Wildlife & Countryside act 1981. Males and females look different, with the males being smaller with shorter bills. This is to avoid competition for food between the sexes.

Black-Tailed Godwit Photo by Dhaval Vargiya on Unsplash

We hope you have enjoyed reading about the habitats and wildlife through this series of blog posts. If you have a favourite species that we haven’t mentioned please let us know! We love that we can create these short guides for you, but we are also passionate about learning through experience. So, get outdoors and look around you and see if you can spot any of the habitats or creatures that you’ve learned about here. We would love to see some of your Solent wildlife spots on social media – tag us @finastrawfoundation!

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