Breeding waders

common redshank

The New Forest is very important for breeding waders. Outside of the breeding season, these long-legged, often long-billed birds spend much of their time on the shoreline or near large areas of freshwater but it is their summertime requirements that make the New Forest a very special place for them.


For many years, across southern England, the wet and open habitats they need for breeding have been disappearing but in the New Forest, both inland and on the coast, large areas of suitable habitat still remain. The heathland and valley mires with areas of short vegetation and wet ground are essential to their survival, along with protection from excessive disturbance by people and their dogs.

Waders nest on the ground and most require an open view from the nest so that they can spot any predators approaching. Some hide their nest in a clump of sedge or long grass; most are marvellously camouflaged on the nest and some nest on almost bare areas and chase off approaching predators.

The cattle and ponies that graze in the New Forest are highly important as they nibble young trees that try to grow out in the open and keep other vegetation short. Their hooves also help to keep edges of pools open and to maintain uneven ground in wet areas.

Wet areas close to the nest enable the young chicks to find food by probing into soft mud and picking insects from the edges of ditches and pools.

Because they nest on the ground in the open, breeding waders are very vulnerable to predators such as crows, badgers and foxes that eat the eggs or chicks.

Nests can also fail if the adults are flushed off the eggs too frequently - the eggs then get too cold, or the adult birds may simply give up trying to breed in the first instance.

On heaths and wet ground, walkers should therefore keep themselves and their dog to the main tracks when waders are nesting (usually March - July). Keep your dog close to you and visible at all times - if necessary use a lead.

Photo credit: Mike Read - Common redshank

  1. Breeding waders (you are here)
  2. Curlew
  3. Lapwing
  4. Little ringed plover
  5. Oystercatcher
  6. Redshank
  7. Ringed plover
  8. Snipe
  9. Woodcock


Ground nesting birds

Guides and leaflets to rare birds of the forest

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