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If you're a birder, then this is for you. All birds can be fascinating to watch – but some are more spectacular or rare. Here's a Top Ten of birds in Scotland – along with the Trust places where you might see them. All are considered to be of high conservation importance either in Scotland and/or the UK.

Any good identification book will provide more details about the birds. Also, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) websites are very helpful.

: Large decline in populations in recent years - but recovering in some areas.

: Upland areas, especially moorland edge with deciduous or young evergreen trees.


: Ben Lomond, Ben Lawers, Mar Lodge; being re-introduced on Goatfell (Arran).


: All year round, but especially in April when 'lekking' behaviour is very apparent.


: Berries, buds and new shoots.



Males have a red wattle above each eye. Perform a showy ritual in breeding season ('lekking'), with 'peacock' display of white tail feathers. Tail feathers used to adorn caps of Scottish military pipe bands. Known also as Blackcock (male) and Greyhen (female). Less rare in some other parts of the world.

: A success story in the Western Isles of Scotland where populations are now stable on many islands, but largely absent from the mainland still.

: Coastal farmland and machair - especially where there is some tall vegetation cover in fields.


: Iona, Canna


: Late April to end of summer.


: Seeds, insects.



Related to water birds (e.g. moorhens) but live on dry land. Very secretive. Like tall herb-rich grassland, particularly hayfields. Modern farming methods don't suit them - but can live in areas practising conservation farming. Listen for their loud, distinctive rasping call which can be heard thoughout the day and night– it's the best way to find them. (Note: they move when not calling so try to locate their hiding place by call then be ready when call stops). Also called the Landrail.

: Healthy populations which are on the rise on many islands.

: Sea cliffs; rocky islands.


: Culzean Country Park or St Abbs' Head – watch them dive. Also, St. Kilda.


: January to September/October.


: Fish.



Make spectacular dives into the sea to catch fish. Breed near Culzean (on Ailsa Craig) and St Abbs (on Bass Rock). Another important breeding ground is the Trust's St. Kilda islands. Always return to same place to breed. Once called Solan Geese (were killed and eaten). There are now so many gannets on the Bass Rock that they are running out of space to nest, and the rock looks white from a distance.

: Stable; doing well where there is protection from illegal persecution.

: Mountainous areas – and they hunt across moorland and mountain-top.


: Goatfell, Ben Lomond, Ben Lawers, Glencoe, Kintail, Mar Lodge, Torridon, Mingulay.


: All year round.


: Smaller mammals (up to size of mountain hares), birds, and some carrion e.g. dead red deer.



Wing span: typically about 210 cm. (7ft) but can be larger. Might be seen gliding high above hills, in an almost lazy fashion. Hunting ground can be up to 60 square miles (155 sq. km) depending on its quality. Nest in places difficult and dangerous to reach – but eggs still stolen by collectors. Nests protected by conservationists until eggs hatch. Live in many places across the world.

Photograph by Niall Benvie

: Recovering well across many areas of Scotland.

: Quiet areas of countryside with fresh water nearby (rivers, lochs).


: Threave, House of Dun (Montrose Basin).


: Arrive from March and leave by September.


: Fish.



Spend winter in Africa, returning to same nest site each year. Build big untidy nests (which are monitored by conservationists). Need patience and luck to see an osprey swoop down to catch a fish – but worth a long wait. (There is now a viewing platform with telescopes in peak season at Threave – follow signs for Threave Castle!).

Photograph by David Whitaker

: In decline.

: Grassy cliff tops on islands.


: Staffa, Mingulay, St. Kilda, Fair Isle - and occasionally seen at St. Abb's Head.


: Arrive from March and leave in August.


: Sand eels particularly, and other fish.



Nest in the ground which makes them very vulnerable to predators, such as rats. Like rat-free islands! Take the boat to Staffa and watch them close up. (And visit Fingal's Cave at the same time.) Puffins like visitors. People keep the predatory gulls away from them. Canna got rid of its rats recently - so puffins are expected to return to the main island from neighbouring smaller ones offshore.

Photograph by Laurie Campbell

: Vulnerable but depends on good woodland habitat.

: Pine forests.


: Mar Lodge.


: All year round.


: Pine seeds.



Endemic bird species (found only in Scotland). Close relation of the Crossbill, Goldfinch and Canary. Male and female look very different: male has orange-red plumage while female has yellow-green. Scots Pine seeds a favourite food; also partial to Larch.

Scottish Crossbill (male) © by David Whitaker

: Recovering following reintroduction programmes around West and East Scotland.

: Sea cliffs and mountainous areas near the sea.


: Burg, Iona, Canna, Torridon,Mingulay, Balmacara.


: All year round.


: Fish mainly, but also birds.



Wing span = up to 240cm (8ft). Largest British bird of prey (beating the Golden Eagle) and 4th largest in the world. People once encouraged to kill them (threat to young game birds) and became extinct by 1918. Re-introduction programme, from 1975, resulted in birds breeding on Rum in 1980s, and Scottish mainland from 1998.

Photograph by David Whitaker

: Vulnerable and varies from year to year depending on prey numbers.

: Moorland areas.


: Kintail, Goatfell.


: All year round - but can collect together in communal roosts in winter.


: Small mammals, such as field voles and mice.



These owls have yellow eyes. Can be seen hunting in the day-time. Look out for them in high moorland places and rough fields (sometimes sitting on a fence post). Take care not to disturb their communal roost sites.

Photograph by David Whitaker

: Stable but vulnerable populations.

: Lochs and wetlands within quiet countryside.


: Threave, House of Dun, Glencoe.


: October to March (some might stay to nest in north Scotland).


: Aquatic plants, grass – also like grain.



Can weigh up to 14 Kg (over 2 stone) but good fliers. Migrate hundreds of miles to Europe and Asia from places like Iceland, where they breed. They pair for life. Easy to tell from Mute Swans due to bright yellow patch above black beak. (Bewick Swans also have yellow patch but they don't come to Scotland usually – they can be seen more in England!)..

Photograph by David Whitaker

Mar Lodge, Ben Lomond

Capercaillie © Niall Benvie

St. Abb's Head, Culzean

Mingulay, Fair Isle, Staffa, St. Kilda

Goatfell

Hen Harrier © David Whitaker

Threave, Preston Mill

Grey Mare's Tail, St. Abb's Head, etc.

All our mountain places, including Ben Lomond and Goatfell

All our gardens, especially on the east coast – and, during harsh winters, further north.

Waxwing © Laurie Campbell

and not forgetting the St Kilda wren!
St Kilda

St Kilda Wren © Laurie Campbell

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