Ground nesting birds

Eurasian curlew

The New Forest is a great place for all sorts of birds, many of which nest on the ground, especially those that breed in the open heathland and mires.

Wading birds include the curlew, redshank, snipe and lapwing, each of which is becoming rare in the south of England. Other specialties are the woodlark, nightjar and Dartford warbler.  Again the New Forest is an important stronghold for these unusual birds; indeed it is designated as a Special Protection Area in part because of the breeding populations of these three species.

The main danger is that these ground nesting birds can easily be frightened away from their nests in spring, leaving eggs or young vulnerable to the cold, or to predators such as crows. Obviously the disturbance could be quite ‘natural’ like a passing fox – but people straying from the main tracks, with or without dogs, are an additional risk.

Activities designed to address the issue include:

  • Signs around the best breeding areas, that are put out each year.
  • The date with nature project at the Reptile Centre near Lyndhurst where one of the key themes is ground nesting birds.
  • A dog walking code, compiled with dog owners as well as wildlife enthusiasts.
  • Face to face conversation with walkers, raising awareness about the presence of the birds and the importance of following the Code.
  • A developing area of work to encourage commercial dog walkers to see the benefits of following the Code.
  • Improvements to recreational sites that are close to where people live and away from the sensitive breeding areas.
  • Education sessions with children and at puppy training classes to help them learn while they are young!

Find out more about New Forest ground-nesting birds in this short film narrated by broadcaster and naturalist Chris Packham:



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