Wild Bird Identification

British Wild Birds

Wader birds

This page on waders is here to help you with british wading birds identification. For many of these uk water birds the main distinctive feature is it's long narrow beak which can dig deep down into wetland and sandy areas. The plumage of these birds varies quite alot from a white bird with black head, the avocet bird to the little stint bird with it's mottled brown colouring.

Avocet Bird


The Avocet will feed on tiny invertebrates. Limited to mainly East Anglia. Present all year round. They nest usually in a hollow on open ground. Limited to small parts of England With it's black cap and mainly white across it's body with some black markings along the wing both sexes are similar. Juveniles have a brownish tinge within their black plumage. Typically four eggs are laid which typically hatch after around three weeks. Includes Avocet bird call.

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Bar Tailed Godwit Bird

Bar Tailed Godwit

Insects are a staple diet of the Bar Tailed Godwit among other foods. Passing migrant across most of Britain. They migrate across to breeding grounds in Scandinavia. Rare. With a long bill the main part of the body is a reddish brown with the top of the wings being of light and dark grayish brown and brownish yellow. The underside of the wings are white with hints of grey specks. In Winter the back and wings of the bird are dark and light gray patterned. Both sexes share incubation of the eggs and care for the young. Includes Bar Tailed Godwit bird call.

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Black Tailed Godwit Bird

Black Tailed Godwit

The Black Tailed Godwit eats beetles, flies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, mayflies, caterpillars and more. Present in some coastal locations around Britain. They nest in a hollow among thick grass. Numbers of breeding pairs are growing but many of the birds will be migrating. They have a straight bill and long brown-red neck, white underbelly and black specks on greyish wings. In winter they are more of a general light grey colour with black and white stripes in the wings and tail. Usually four eggs are part of a clutch. Both parents incubate them for about three weeks. They usually fly after one month. Includes Black Tailed Godwit bird call.

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Common Sandpiper Bird

Common Sandpiper

The Common Sandpiper will eat insects. They like to be near rocky streams or a pebbly shore near water. Thin hole in the ground sheltered by plants or shrubs. Many are visitors. It has a brownish speckled head, back and wings with a grayish/brown and white underside with a straight bill. Four legs are laid which both parents incubate for 20-23 days until hatched then within three weeks are usually flying. Includes Common Sandpiper bird call.

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Curlew Bird


The Curlew eats insects, worms and small frogs are eaten during breeding season but in winter they tend to eat more crabs, shrimps and cockles. Located all over the UK they are more on coastal areas in the winter time. They breed among rough grassland and cereal crops. Present across Britain all year. Curlews are generally sandy brown with many dark brown specks, more solid dark brown towards the outside of their wings and have a white and brown striped tail. Fours eggs are typically laid and incubated mainly by the female. Once hatched they fly within 6 weeks. Includes Curlew bird call.

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Curlew Sandpiper Bird

Curlew Sandpiper

The Curlew Sandpiper uses it's long bill it can get at shrimps, worms, insects towards the surface of the mud. Seen mainly migrating along east coast Britain in mud flats and sandy areas. They breed on the tundra of Arctic Siberia. Most likely seen migrating in Autumn months. With a long curved black beak and black legs the Curlew Sandpiper has a greyish-slate coloured back and white underbelly whilst Juveniles having a more brick-red or pinkish like face and underside during Autumn migration. Their breeding grounds are outside of the UK but may use Britain as a stopping off point as it migrates in Autumn. Includes Curlew Sandpiper bird call.

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Dotterel Bird


The Dotterel eats bugs like beetles and flies. If visiting may only be spotted in small parts of Scotland. They line the nest with moss and lichen. Rare visitor to Britain. A brownish coloured body with white around the eyes and a white breastband. They have distinctive reddish chestnut coloured underside. Males have slightly duller plumage to the females though are similar in appearance. The male takes on most incubates the eggs. Once the eggs are hatched they will all migrate typically using the same flight routes each year. Includes Dotterel bird call.

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Dunlin Bird


With a long beak the Dunlin can get at worms, molluscs and crustaceans. Large nesting numbers can be found the Pennines and upper Scotland. A cup like nest within a grass tussock. Present all year mainly on coastal areas of Britain. In summer they have a black underside along with a brick-red and black back and white underside in winter with greyish back. Both summer and winter they blackish grey outer wings with a white line and greyish inner wings. Four eggs are laid and both incubated by male and female which then hatch after three weeks. Includes Dunlin bird call.

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Golden Plover Bird

Golden Plover

Golden Plover's tend to eat insects and worms. Throughout Britain. More towards the south in winter. Breeds over upland moors in summer. Common all year round round. Gold and brown speckled back with solid black underside area with grey/white legs. Females have less black on the underbelly. Around the end of April the nest of typically four chicks, mainly incubated by the female for around four weeks is then hatched and looked after both parents for a further four weeks. Includes Golden Plover bird call.

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Green Sandpiper Bird

Green Sandpiper

The Green Sandpiper will eat small invertebrates as food. Typically nest in woodland of Northern Europe and Asia. Nests are usually rebuilt around an old nest from previous birds such as Blackbirds or Jays. Migrate across and pass southern England. They have a dark brown wings (above and below) upper body and head with some white specks and a white underside with green legs. Green Sandpipers typically lay four eggs. Includes Green Sandpiper bird call.

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Greenshank Bird


Greenshank will walk the surface of shallow water and use their long beaks to catch small fish. Will breed in the Scottish Highlands and Hebrides. Other sightings are liking to be Greenshanks passing through. They nest near water sheltered by a rock or dead wood and is made up of plant debris. Restricted to certain parts of Scotland or just passing over Britain onto another location. It has long green legs and strongly barred light and brown back which is less barred in winter months with it having a mainly white underside all year. The eggs hatch within three and a half weeks. Includes Greenshank bird call.

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Grey Phalarope Bird

Grey Phalarope

The Grey Phalarope eat small insects and marine plankton. They are visitors to Britain They breed in Greenland, Northern Siberia and elsewhere. Rare visitor numbers. Male and female plumage is similar in colour though the male isn't as vibrant. They have white around the eyes, a yellow beak, brown head and wings with yellow specks. The underside is a chestnut-brown colour. In winter the brown on the Grey Phalarope turns very much into light grey with specks of black and the underside becomes white. They nest in hollows in the ground and the female typically lays four eggs whilst the male takes over and incubates the egg for around 19 or so days. Includes Grey Phalarope bird call.

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Grey Plover Bird

Grey Plover

The Grey Plover often eats small crabs Frequent British estuaries in winter. Shallow gravel for a nesting site Visible mainly in winter. In summer the Grey Plover has black and white plumage on the back and strong black coloured front including much of the face. In winter the black front turns greyish white. Typically four eggs are laid and hatch in around 26 days. They typically breed in locations outside the UK in places such as Canada and Russia. Includes Grey Plover bird call.

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Jack Snipe Bird

Jack Snipe

The long beak of a Jack Snipe can search for earthworms and insects. Migrates across most of Britain They breed around the swampland's of Scandinavia. Mainly a winter visiter The Jack Snipe has a long bill, yet smaller than the common Snipe. It has a dark unstreaked crown. Their nest is made to be well hidden on the ground to house about 3-4 eggs. Includes Jack Snipe bird call.

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Knot Bird


The Knot will eat crustaceans, molluscs and worms moving over mud and sand. Visitors to most parts of Coastal Britain in winter. Nests are built on the ground near a water source typically inland. Large numbers of Knots are spotted flying through Britain. Summer Plumage is brick red underside with gold/black and silvery patterned back. Winter time they have a white underbelly and mainly medium tone grey back. Many nests are built buy the male typically of leaves, lichens and moss which the female chooses one. The female lays three to four eggs which both parents incubate. They hatch in around 22 days. Includes Knot bird call.

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Lapwing Bird


A Lapwing will eat insects and grubs on farmland. Across the whole of the UK They nest in meadows and marshes as it is safer than open farm land. Typically present all year. Pretty unique to the plovers the female is a distinctive green on the back, underside around the chest and inner wingspan, yet the male is similar but with a white shade instead of green. 3-4 eggs are typically laid and heavily defended for predators sometimes including domestic farm animals. Includes Lapwing bird call.

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Little Ringed Plover Bird

Little Ringed Plover

Little Ringed Plovers eat insects, spiders, worms and similar. Mainly England They like ample shingle and they breed on gravel pits Rare birds who are summer visitors Brownish back and white underside with black breast line and black around it's eye which has a thin yellow ring within. In an exposed nest they typical have four eggs which are in themselves protected due to their sandy, stone coloured shells. The chicks will hatch in three to four weeks. Both parents tend to their young. Includes Little Ringed Plover bird call.

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Little Stint Bird

Little Stint

The Little Stint search for small shellfish and worms near the surface of the mud. Sometimes seen on migration across mainly England They breed in Tundra or Marsh in a ground nest lined with dead leaves Rare British bird With both sexes being of similar plumage the summer colours include the back being black and reddish-brown and white underside with brownish spots. In winter the birds have light grey back and slate like greyish outer wings. Four eggs are usually laid by the female before being chiefly incubated by the male Little Stint. The older and younger birds typically migrate separately. Includes Little Stint bird call.

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Oystercatcher Bird


Oystercatchers eat cockles, worms, small crabs and shrimps. It uses it's chisel like beak to prize open slightly open mussel shells or punches a hole into closed ones. Located across Britain they are mainly coastal birds but are known to nest inland. They nest within shallow sandy patches or shingle. Common Coastal bird They have black and white plumage, pink legs and the distinctive long thin orange beak. The nest is incubated by both the male and female for three to four weeks. The chicks leave the nest hours after hatching and are independent around five weeks after that. Includes Oystercatcher bird call.

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Purple Sandpiper Bird

Purple Sandpiper

Purple Sandpiper eats shellfish, crustaceans, worms etc UK Rocky Coastlines Typically of the shores of Britain but nearby in locations like Scandinavia. More common in Northern Britain Winter plumage includes yellow legs with white underside and a slate grey back. In summer the back is more refined with reddish brown colours. The males makes several scrapes and the female chooses one. A nest contain 3 or 4 eggs to which the male mainly incubates. Includes Purple Sandpiper bird call.

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Red Necked Phalarope Bird

Red Necked Phalarope

The Red Necked Phalarope eat insects. A few breeding sites include Northern Isles. Rarely breed in Shetlands or outer Hebrides. Most of these birds are rare visitors. In summer females have a reddish brown neck, dark head and back with yellowish specks and a white underside. The male is of similar plumage yet slightly duller. Winter plumage has more white. The female lays four eggs which are incubated by the male for around 18 days. He then cares for the young until the become independent in around 16-20 days. Includes Red Necked Phalarope bird call.

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Redshank Bird


Most food for the Redshank is obtained from estuary mud. Present across much of Britain in the summer months and mainly around the coastline in winter. It nests among grass on the ground Resident all year. Similar for both sexes a redshank has a long orange beak and orange-red legs. A brownish speckled head and main wingspan with white towards the back with a black and white barred tail. In winter these colours are slightly less streaked. It will lay three to four legs which both adults will incubate and hatch after around three and a half weeks. Includes Redshank bird call.

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Ringed Plover Bird

Ringed Plover

Shellfish, worms and insects are eaten by the Ringed Plover. Across British coastlines They nest of shingled beaches Common A Larger bird than the Little Ringed Plover they have a orange and black tipped bill, brownish back with darker brown feathers, a white underside and patches on face as well as a black breast line and patches on face. Both parents incubate the eggs for about 23-26 days. They typically have two eggs. Chicks are independent within three to four weeks. Includes Ringed Plover bird call.

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Ruff Bird


A Ruff find sources of food in wetter areas of marshland. An Autumn migrant. They nest in the ground surrounded by long grass and typically lay about four eggs. A migrating bird mainly. Very recognizable because of it's distinctive raised neck ruff that's colour can include purple, black, white or creamy and red-brown. They can be striped, barred or spotted also. The Ruff is raised feathers around the males neck that intimidates other males and is ultimately used to attract a mate in which males compete for courting territory. Includes Ruff bird call.

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Sanderling Bird


Sanderlings quite often catch crabs and other small invertebrates in the tidal action before it comes back towards the shore. Sandy coastlines of Britain They breed in the Arctic Winter visitors along the Coast of Britain Winter time both sexes have a white underside and a light grey back with black lines along the inner wings. In summer the Sanderling has reddish brown patterned back, head and chest. The nest built into willow or similar vegetation is lined with leaves which typically holds four eggs. Includes Sanderling bird call.

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Snipe Bird


A Snipe birds long bill searches under the mud but also finds insects on the surface. Present right across Great Britain. The nest well hidden in the ground usually holds a clutch of four eggs which the female incubates. Most numerous in winter months. With a long bill the Snipe has light and dark brown stripes across it's body especially on it's back. Sexes are alike. Once hatched chicks learn within about 3 weeks to feed themselves and fly. Includes Snipe bird call.

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Spotted Redshank Bird

Spotted Redshank

Spotted Redshank birds eat water beetles, worms, shrimps and similar. Pass through southern parts of England in migration. They nest in Northern Europe and Central Africa. They pass through England and can only spotted at certain times of the year. These birds have long straight bills. In summer their breeding plumage is a striking all over black with white flecks in the wings and orange dark legs. Wintertime the plumage is very much a light grey with slightly darker wings with the similar white flecks. Sexes are alike. If you do spot a Spotted Redshank it will likely be lakesides, freshwater marshes or sewage farms. Includes Spotted Redshank bird call.

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Stone Curlew Bird

Stone Curlew

Stone Curlews mainly eats snails, slugs and insects but also small animals such as field mice. Found in limited parts of southern England. Nests are lined with pebbles, rabbit droppings and other similar material. Rare birds Brown plumage of various brown shades. Big yellow eyes and yellow beak. They have a whitish underside and yellow legs. Sexes are similar. In April to May typically two eggs are incubated by both sexes and hatch in around twenty six days. They breed in heaths, downs and open farmland areas. Includes Stone Curlew bird call.

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Temminck's Stint Bird

Temminck's Stint

Temminck's Stint food types include beetles, flies and worms. Very Rare passing migrant birds across South East England. Low lying ground near water source among long grass or shrubs. Rare non breeder or visitors on British land. With a slim longish dark bill and yellow-green legs, this Stint has a white underbelly and back is greyish-brown with some reddish brown edged feathers. Both sexes are of similar plumage. They lay normally four eggs and are incubated for around three weeks by the male. Once hatched the young become independent after around two and a half weeks. Includes Temminck's Stint bird call.

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Turnstone Bird


A Turnstone will dig for small shore life. British coastline Nests are built on Rocky, stony ground using leaves and grasses. Mainly winter visitors Summer plumage is black and white with chestnut stripes in the back. In winter the colours are more white and dark brown. They lay 3-5 eggs which both male and female incubate for around 23 days. Once hatched the chicks are usually able to feed themselves in as little as a day. Includes Turnstone bird call.

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Whimbrel Bird


The Whimbrel feed on insects and worms. Breeding numbers in the very north of Scotland. They nest on moorland. Typically coastal visitors. Similar for both sexes, the Whimbrel has a stripped sandy brown head, sandy inner wings with white specks and darker brown outer wings with light brown and white specks. The tail is a rounded half fan shape. They have a downward curved bill. Among areas of cotton grass they make a shallow hollow in the ground lined with plant material. A clutch of three or four eggs are incubated by one parent whilst the other keeps watch of danger alternately. After about 24 days they hatch and can fly within five to six weeks. Includes Whimbrel bird call.

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Woodcock Bird


A Woodcock will eat centipedes, earthworms and spiders. Unlike most Waders the Woodcocks habitat is among the woodland areas all across Britain. Using their natural camouflage they nest among the undergrowth of the forest floor. Present all year across the UK. They have short legs and black bar along the top of the head. Their underside is greyish brown with lighter brown/black bars and chestnut and black markings across the back. The leaf built nest along the ground will typically hold eggs for between 20-23 days before hatching which are then tended by both parents who then squat to fend off any potential predators with it's natural camouflage. Includes Woodcock bird call.

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