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Take a look at these easy to identify species and get your Great Coastal Birdwatch off to a flying start.

If you’re new to coastal birdwatching, it may be helpful to begin with a small number of distinctive birds that are frequently spotted around the Solent.

Ranger Alice has put together this list of five of our most conspicuous species to set you off:

Dark-bellied brent goose

The UK’s smallest goose:  only just bigger than a mallard duck and much smaller than a Canada goose.
They have a grey-brown back, a black neck and head with a lacey white patch on their necks. Their delightful ‘cronnnnking’ call makes them particularly distinctive.

Find out more about dark-bellied brent geese.

Dark-bellied brent geese group at Yarmouth


Oystercatchers at the beach

With their bright orange beaks, pink legs, and striking black and white plumage, oystercatchers are unmistakable, perfect for birdwatching beginners.

They spend much of their time feeding on the coast, but at hightide you might spot them on nearby grassland.

Find out more about oystercatcher.

Little egret

These small herons can be seen wading through the shallows, using their dagger-like bills to catch passing fish.

Their bright white plumage makes them easy to spot, with their black legs and beak standing in stark contrast. If you’re lucky enough to get a close look, you might notice their vivid yellow eye colour.

Find out more about little egret.

Little egret fishing



Seen in large, wheeling flocks during the winter, these handsome birds have a beautiful green and purple sheen to their back feathers, and an impressive crest.

In flight, you can see their rounded and floppy-looking wings.

Find out more about lapwing.


There’s no missing these prehistoric beauties! Their large size, black feathers and powerful hooked beak mean that cormorants stand out in a crowd.

Their feathers are not waterproof, so they are most easily spotted when perched, stretching out their wings to dry in the sun after a dive.

Find out more about cormorant.

Cormorant with wings outstretched

For more top tips, read Ranger Karima’s beginner’s guide to bird watching, and always remember to follow the coastal code.

Don’t forget to take part in this year’s Great Coastal Birdwatch from 14-29 October.