All information in this blog post is correct as of the publishing date, 21.09.18.
Relaxing, diverse and naturally stunning, the Channel Islands are among the top destinations in Europe for people who love nothing more than exploring the great outdoors in peace and quiet. If you are currently looking into walking holidays in Guernsey and really want to get to know the wildlife when you are on the island, why not have a read of this guide?
Whether or not you’ve got any experience with birdwatching, we’re sure you’ll be interested in our list of the top 10 rare birds spotted in Guernsey (which also includes a small selection of species found on the nearby island of Alderney).
Birds Spotted in Guernsey
Whilst a duck may not seem like the most exciting bird to start our guide with, this species is quite fascinating both in terms of its appearance and the way in which it has graced the island of Guernsey in the past.
The male Mandarin duck is a particularly beautiful creature, with its red face and ‘whiskers’, purple breast and orange, sail-like back feathers making it a completely unique member of the waterfowl family.
You will do well to spot this duck during your walking holidays in Guernsey – several sightings have been recorded at irregular intervals, but it is thought none of these individuals were wild and, instead, all escaped from captivity.
It may not be the most impressive-looking of birds, but the common quail is nevertheless an important addition to our list of rare birds spotted in Guernsey.
Instantly recognisable because of its peculiarly round stomach, the quail is a very shy creature which is also reluctant to fly, often making it hard to spot even in areas where it is abundant. You are probably more likely to hear than see this bird on your travels – its shyness is in stark contrast to its loud and distinct call, which many say sounds like it is crying ‘wet my lips’.
The common quail has been spotted just 10 times in Guernsey since 1969, but there is no question that it does occasionally migrate to the island in the springtime. Your walking holiday might just coincide with its making an appearance!
Everything about the Eurasian spoonbill makes it one of the most interesting rare birds spotted in Guernsey, from how it looks to its unique pattern of appearances on the island.
A very quiet bird which barely makes any noise even within its breeding colonies, the Eurasian spoonbill is nevertheless unmistakable due to its extremely long and, unsurprisingly, spoon-shaped bill.
The spoonbill is only a rare migrant to Guernsey but does occasionally stop off on the island for an extended visit, with a total of 17 having been spotted over the years. Local birdwatchers, however, have fond memories of one individual who enjoyed living here so much that it stayed from 1975 until 1978 – maybe you’ll want to do the same after your walking holiday!
Although the ferocious-looking red kite bird of prey is classified as ‘near threatened’ globally, recent years have seen its population numbers increase dramatically throughout the UK. However, this is not the case in the Channel Islands, and the bird has only been spotted a total of seven times in Guernsey on its autumn and winter migratory journeys.
Named as ‘Bird of the Century’ by the British Trust for Ornithology in 1999, there is no disputing that the red kite is extremely popular amongst birdwatchers, so you can be reassured that any sightings you do make on your travels will be well worth the wait!
One of the more unusual-looking rare birds spotted in Guernsey, the pied avocet is mainly white, with black patches on its wings, back and head. What it is most distinctive for, however, is its long black bill which turns sharply upwards at its tip.
Previously extinct in the UK, the pied avocet was successfully reintroduced to the country in the first half of the 20th century, which led to it being selected as the bird of choice for the RSPB’s logo. It does not breed in Guernsey, however, and has only been spotted on the island approximately 17 times.
The red knot is a shorebird of medium size that is notable for the striking, cinnamon-hued face, throat and breast it displays during the breeding season.
This bird breeds in some of the world’s coldest places, including northern Canada and Russia, and is not a resident in the UK. However, the red knot is known to make annual visits to Guernsey; would-be spotters will have to be patient, however – just a few individuals are seen each winter.
Of all the rare birds spotted in Guernsey, the European bee-eater is surely among the most beautiful. A multicoloured species with red, blue, green and gold plumage, the species will be easily recognised by anyone lucky enough to spot it on their walking holidays.
Although the bee-eater has very occasionally bred in the UK, it has not done so in Guernsey. However, individuals have visited the island during the summer months at least 11 times.
Birds Spotted in Alderney
The island of Alderney – which is part of the Bailiwick of Guernsey – may be small (it is only three miles long and one-and-a-half miles wide), but it is nevertheless something of a haven for birdwatching enthusiasts, playing host to a range of rare and unusual species each year.
The Montagu’s harrier is a bird of prey that, other than at two breeding sites in the south of England, is rarely seen across Britain. However, it is known to visit various parts of the Channel Islands on occasion, including Alderney.
When it does crop up in Alderney, the Montagu’s harrier (named after the renowned naturalist George Montagu) is usually seen in the autumn on its migratory journey towards Africa. Although its scarce numbers may make it hard to spot, those who have seen the harrier flying in person will be able to tell you that it is a particularly graceful creature. Its powerful wingbeats allow it to glide easily through the air, which it does remarkably close to the ground when searching for prey.
A close relative of the canary, the European serin is small but beautiful and rarely spotted in the UK. Alderney is known to be a very occasional migratory location of choice for the serin, though, and where better to look for it than in the beautiful Channel Islands?
Despite its size (it generally measures only 11-12 centimetres long), the European serin isn’t too difficult to spot when it is in the vicinity, owing to its active and excitable nature. Far from being a shy species, the serin is often conspicuous and will happily spend plenty of time sitting in trees and crying its distinctive, buzzing trill.
The striking markings that the lesser redpoll displays during breeding season make it a fascinating bird to look out for. With a red forehead and a pink breast and face, the redpoll is certainly easy to spot when nearby, and it will also help by alerting birdwatchers to its presence with a harsh, staccato flight call.
This bird’s UK population has decreased dramatically in recent years, but it is still seen at regular intervals throughout the Channel Islands. In Alderney, the redpoll is most often spotted in the spring, when it stops off on the island during its migratory journey.