New Forest
 - Explorers
New Forest
Explorers Guide
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Pony near Hampton Ridge
For comprehensive information about the New Forest National Park
For comprehensive information about the New Forest National Park
***** For information about New Forest access restrictions and related matters, check out the Forestry England website. *****

New Forest birds - an introduction

Spotted flycatchers are spring and summer visitors to the New Forest
Spotted flycatchers are spring and
summer visitors to the New Forest

The New Forest is a wonderful place to see birds. The wide variety of habitats, many of which are rare or scarce elsewhere in Britain, and relatively mild climate provide a home for a great many species. And of course, much of this ancient landscape has not been affected by modern agricultural methods and other trappings of 21st century life.

Here throughout the year buzzards can be seen soaring on the thermals, whilst the rare honey buzzard is a regular late-spring and summer visitor. Goshawks in recent years have made an impressive return to the area and so have ravens, birds whose croaking calls alert of presence high above.

Hen harriers patrol the winter heaths, repeatedly quartering the ground in search of small mammals or unwary birds on which to feast. Merlins - quite small, often inconspicuous falcons - use dashing, low level flights to catch their prey unawares, whilst great grey shrikes utilise gorse, birch and sometimes overhead cables for perches as they wait to strike at passing insects, small birds, mice and voles.

The New Forest wetlands in spring witness the warning cries of displaying lapwings, the sound of drumming snipe and the mournful calls of curlews. Redshanks, too, the yelpers of the marsh that have sadly greatly reduced in numbers, use agitated alarm cries whenever a real or imaginary threat appears in the distance.

Hobbys hawk above bogs and mires, searching for flying insects on which to feast, whilst swallows, house martins, swifts and occasional sand martins likewise seek out prey in the skies above the Forest.

Dartford warblers frequent the heaths, and so, too, do stonechats, woodlarks, meadow pipits, skylarks and breeding linnets. Nightjars, mysterious crepuscular creatures, can also be found on heathland, and in areas of woodland clear-fell, too.

Great spotted, lesser spotted and green woodpeckers, nuthatches, treecreepers, crossbills and hawfinches are year-round residents, whilst the ancient, unenclosed woodlands also attract breeding redstarts and wood warblers.

Kingfishers and grey wagtails enliven the streams, particularly during the breeding season, sometimes in company with Mandarin ducks and Little Egrets.

Help safeguard New Forest birds.
From March to July, a range of very vulnerable heathland and wetland birds nest on the ground in the New Forest. Please stay on the main paths at this time, and ensure that dogs do also. Here's more information: Avoid disturbance to ground nesting birds.

Meanwhile, rare ground-nesting bird populations in the New Forest were boosted during 2021 by public support, the efforts of Forestry England and New Forest National Park Authority staff, and scientists from the Fordingbridge-based Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust. More details are here: Rise in rare bird numbers in New Forest after efforts to protect sites.

In all, the New Forest is home to around 100 species of breeding birds, whilst a further 20 or so, can be seen as regular winter visitors or passage migrants.

This really is a great place to watch birds.

Find out more about New Forest birds

Getting started

Some notable New Forest birds

Birds of the New Forest coast - an introduction to the birds of Keyhaven, Pennington, Normandy and Hurst
Buzzard - a welcome wildlife success story
Common crossbill - distinctive finches, more often heard than seen
Curlew - a vociferous spring and summer visitor
Dartford warbler - a tiny heathland denizen
Fieldfare - an autumn and winter visitor
Firecrest - always a treat to see or hear
Goshawk - the phantom of the woods
Great grey shrike - fierce predators that visit in autumn and winter
Grey wagtail - a distinctive bird of rivers and streams
Hawfinch - stocky finches with distinctive bills
Hen harrier - a long-winged bird of prey present in autumn and winter
Hobby - master of the skies
Kingfisher - a brightly coloured but elusive resident
Lapwing - also known as the peewit and green plover
Linnet - a common and widespread heathland finch
Mandarin duck - extravagantly plumaged wildfowl
Nightjar - elusive, wide-gaped creatures of the night
Nuthatch - vociferous birds of broad-leaved woodland
Raven - another huge wildlife success story
Redshank - the yelper of the marsh
Redstart - colourful males and duller females
Redwing - an attractive autumnal and winter visitor
Short-eared owl - rarely seen but well worth waiting for
Skylark - an often overlooked songster
Snipe - year round wetland residents
Stock dove - an enigmatic bird of the old woods
Stonechat - restless birds of the New Forest heaths
Tawny owl - surprisingly numerous hunters of the night
Wood warbler - secretive creatures of the broad-leaved woodlands
Woodcock - elusive woodland dwellers
Woodlark - marvellous heathland songsters
Woodpeckers - two relatively common species and one much less so

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** New Forest ponies and other animals**
The New Forest
Commoners' ponies, cattle, pigs, sheep and donkeys are a popular part of the New Forest scene, but during 2019 agisters attended 159 road traffic accidents involving these animals, a small but disappointing increase on the 154 accidents attended in 2018.

Sadly, 58 animals were killed - 35 ponies, 13 cows, 8 donkeys and 2 sheep, whilst a further 32 were injured - 3 pigs, 9 donkeys, 11 cows and 9 ponies.

(Forty-three accidents occurred in daylight, 15 at twilight and 101 in the dark. Twenty-seven accidents were not reported by the driver involved).

Here's just one horrific example - Three donkeys killed in collision with van at notorious New Forest blackspot (Advertiser and Times)
** Always take care when driving **
New Forest seasonal highlights
Bluebells and other wild flowers brighten the woods, usually in relatively small numbers.
Bird song can be heard throughout the day but is at its loudest at dawn and, to a lesser extent, dusk.
Foals are born in increasing numbers and can be seen beside ever-attentive mares.
Dragonflies are more frequently observed on the wing as spring progresses.

Badgers can now often be watched above ground well before darkness falls.
Deer - fallow, red, roe, sika and muntjac deer are all present - give birth, although the youngsters are unlikely to be noticed until July.
Heath spotted-orchids add delicate pink colour to many of the heaths.
Hobbies, dashing birds of prey, can often be seen aloft, hawking for insects.
The Glorious New Forest
The New Forest
The New Forest
Marvellous landscapes, marvellous wildlife
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley