Birdwatching In London: The Ultimate Guide

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When it comes to birdwatching, London might not be the first place that springs to mind. However, the capital is a wonderful destination to see some of the UK’s most remarkable birds. Away from the hustle and bustle of city life, birdwatching in London is proving an increasingly popular pastime, especially following the pandemic.


Some of the most commonly asked questions on Google include “where can I see geese in London?” and “where can I see Kingfisher in London?”. That is why we thought we would take a closer look at the best places for birdwatching in London, the best communities to be part of and the kinds of species you can expect to find.

For those who’ve seen it all - Unlikely spots and birds

Although it might not feature in the top birdwatching destinations in the world, London can provide a fantastic backdrop to your next trip. Birdwatching in London is like nowhere else in the world, and you will experience species in ways that you have never previously seen them.

 

If you are considering starting birdwatching, London has some truly unique locations, including: 

 

  1. Tree sparrows in a sewage farm
    This might not sound like your first destination to visit to see London birds, but tree sparrows are a very common site at Beddington Farmlands. However, if you are planning to visit you will need to book in advance.
  2. Skylarks at a landfill
    There is a large landfill site just outside Rainham, and alongside spectacular views of the city, the green hillside is also a great chance to see skylarks and the occasional raven in their natural habitat.
  3. Yellowhammers in an aerodrome
    Once home to spitfires, the RAF Hornchurch aerodrome is now home to an array of wildlife, including some rare and beautiful yellowhammers.
  4. Turnstones at Southend Pier
    While Southend might not technically be in London, it is under an hour away, which is why it makes our list, especially for those asking, “where can I see geese in London?” The pier and foreshore are often home to an array of London birds to enjoy.
  5. Peregrine falcons at Battersea Power Station
    Once a bustling power station and now luxury apartments, Battersea Power Station and the surrounding area is a great opportunity to see London’s booming population of Peregrines.
  6. Bearded tits at an old MOD firing range
    Another ex-military spot which has become home to an array of unique wildlife is Rainham Marshes. The old targets used for shooting are now home to a variety of London birds, including the bearded tit.
  7. Firecrests at a cemetery
    Tower Hamlets Cemetery might look like it has come straight from a gothic novel, but it is also one of the best spots for birdwatching in London. The gravestones and overgrown bushes have become home to spectacular species, including firecrests.
  8. Whinchats and Stonechats at a prison
    Famous amongst the canon of literature, Wormwood Scrubs boasts over 200 acres of open space, which has become a popular spot for whinchats and stonechats.
  9. Black-tailed godwits at the D-Day mulberry harbour
    Mulberry harbour in East London was once part of the D-Day Landings, but nowadays, visitors to the region will be able to see plenty of beautiful black-tailed godwits.
  10. Jackdaws on the back of a deer
    Another rare treat that can be found when birdwatching in London is seeing jackdaws sitting on the back of the deer in Richmond Park.

See also: Top birdwatching destinations in the world

London Birdwatching Communities

Of course, these are just ten of the rare London birds that you can see across the city and surrounding area. If you are looking to discover more about the birds that you can see in the capital and make some new friends, then there are lots of communities that you can join: 

Birda

Birda is the free worldwide birdwatching community that is great for the whole family. No matter whether you are an experienced watcher or you are looking for tips on birdwatching for kids, this nature-loving community will be there to help you on your journey and discover new species, destinations and advice.

London Bird Club

No birdwatching London community list would be complete without mentioning the London Bird Club. From answering “where can I see Kingfisher in London?” to helping you with advice and information on the capital’s best birdwatching spots, this community is a hive of activity for the city.

The Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park

Another great birdwatching London community is the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. Every third Saturday of the month, the club visits the Cemetery Park in Bow, the largest woodland area in the borough. This gathering is great for the entire family and individuals of all experience levels.

Barnes’ London Wetland Centre. Photo: Diliff, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

12 of the best birdwatching spots in London

The capital is a vast city, and knowing the best spaces to go birdwatching in London can be tough. Thankfully, there is a huge choice of locations to choose from to help you spot some of the most unique species in the country. 

 

  1. Barnes’ London Wetland Centre
    This stunning nature reserve, housed on the site of a former Victorian reservoir, is teeming with incredible wildlife as well as some of the UK’s rarest birds. The stunning lakes and ponds have become somewhat of an institution for birdwatchers and nature lovers.
  2. Rainham Marshes
    We mentioned this location earlier, but this former Ministry of Defence firing range covers a vast 870 acres and is currently managed by the RSPB. The many shallow lagoons and marshes are the perfect home for a huge variety of animals.
  3. Hampstead Heath
    One of the oldest parks in the city, Hampstead Heath is a great location for birdwatching in London and allows visitors to see everything from Red Kites to buzzards.
  4. Beddington Farmlands
    At the other end of the city is Beddington Farmlands, which is a vast 400-acre area that forms part of the popular Wandle Valley Regional Park. Here, birdwatchers will be able to see all kinds of rare birds and wildlife.
  5. Woodberry Wetlands
    If you are wondering, “where can I see Kingfisher in London?” then the 11 hectares of the Woodland Wetlands is a fantastic spot. It is also completely free to visit.
  6. Walthamstow Wetlands
    Another great place to see some rare London birds is Walthamstow Wetlands, which is part of the Lee Valley special protection area.
  7. Abney Park
    Once an area of old woodland, Abney Park in Stoke Newington is now one of the ‘magnificent seven’ garden cemeteries in London. It is also a popular spot for birdwatching in London, letting visitors see everything from woodpeckers to wrens.
  8. River Lea
    The winding river lea offers vast stretches of fantastic birdwatching locations, and thanks to being bordered by an array of vegetation, you will be able to see the likes of the reed warbler and its cousin, the sedge warbler.
  9. Wanstead Park
    A popular spot for East Londoners looking to unwind and get outdoors, Wanstead Park is also a great space to spot some of the rarest London birds.
  10. Wormwood Scrubs
    Another London birdwatching destination that we mentioned earlier, Wormwood Scrubs and the surrounding scrubs attract a huge variety of birds throughout the year, making it a must-visit location for all birdwatching fans.
  11. Kew Gardens
    Taking the Thames path from Kew Gardens and heading towards Richmond Park is not only one of the most popular walks in the city, but it is also a great chance to see the likes of Kingfishers, herons and cormorants.
  12. South London Downs
    Finally, another popular spot for birdwatching in London is South London Downs. This nature reserve has received recognition for its habitats and offers visitors a great chance to see an array of rare London birds.

Special Finds

Any one of these 12 locations will give you a chance to see some fantastic and rare birds. However, if there are specific species that you want to see, there are a couple of places to visit.

If you want to see some geese in London, then you should head to Walthamstow Wetlands. Alongside being home to geese, this beautiful region of the capital is also home to seven species of ducks and even owls!

If you are looking to catch some Kingfisher in their natural habitat, then head towards Regent’s Canal, in particular, the area running from Islington towards Tower Hamlets and Victoria Park. This area is the perfect spot to see Kingfishers and other wildlife.

Discover more with Birda

If you are looking to experience birdwatching in London, then make sure you take our Birda app with you. The Birda app is free and designed to help you get outside and start recording your birding experience, allowing you to get the most from every trip.

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