July is a fantastic time to see many birds in Britain due to the abundance of food. Young birds are often ready to fledge in July and can be seen flying for the first time. Britain is an excellent breeding ground for many birds, and many of our birds of prey can be seen teaching their young how to hunt in July.
Here are ten British birds that you can spot in July.
Reed warblers appear in Britain in May, but by mid-July, their young will fledge and can be seen leaving the nest. Reed warblers live in the reed beds making cup-shaped nests between the reed stems. Reed warblers will usually lay a clutch of five or six eggs. However, not all of them may be theirs.
Reed warblers fall foul of the cuckoo. Cuckoos are notorious brood parasites and will lay their eggs in the reed warblers’ nest. As the cuckoo grows, the reed warbler has to make more trips to find food, often spending a couple more weeks feeding the cuckoo than its own young. After the cuckoo has become too big for its nest, it will still expect food from the reed warbler.
Reminiscent of the sound of summer, the call of a turtle dove is not as common as it once was. Turtle doves are not as easy to spot as they used to be in Britain and is the fastest declining bird. Droughts in their wintering territory in parts of Africa have led to the decline of the turtle dove, with only 45,000 breeding pairs remaining in the UK.
Turtle doves can be found around farmland with hedgerows and scrub. Turtle doves can be found nesting in the hedgerows and feed on the seeds in the field. Unfortunately, weed plants treated with herbicides have also impacted the turtle dove population as they can no longer feed on the seeds.
Black guillemots can be found in Scotland, with some of the best colonies found on the Shetland and Orkney Isles. They can often be heard making high-pitched whistles high up on coastal cliffs. They are dark chocolate brown with bright red feet.
July is a great time to see black guillemots as they can be seen flying with fish in their bills, returning to the nest to feed their young. They nest under boulders so if you do see a black guillemot, try to avoid walking over the beach so that you don’t crush any eggs or chicks.
The Kestrel is Britain’s most common bird of prey, and July is one of the best times to see them. Prey is abundant in summer as most British mammals will have produced at least one litter. Voles and mice are a good source of food for kestrels and the young mammals are inexperienced when outside their burrows.
Adult kestrels can often be seen hunting for prey in July. As many of their young will have fledged, they can be seen flying alongside the adults, learning the best ways to catch their prey. If looking for kestrels, start by looking for tall perches such as fence posts or lamposts. Kestrels can often be seen sitting on these, using them as lookouts to spot their next meal.
As the cuckoo is known to call its own name, so do kittiwakes. The onomatopoeic call echos off the cliffs surrounding their nests. Kittiwakes are the only gulls that build their nests on the side of cliffs, usually out of mud and seaweed.
July is a fantastic time to see young kittiwakes take their first flight. While nesting begins in May, the chicks will have grown well by July, and by late July they can be seen flying around the cliffs. Kittiwakes colonies can be spotted by the large amounts of guano on the cliffs. Just don’t get too close when looking at them, otherwise, you might get dripped on.
One of, if not the most colourful birds in Britain, the Kingfisher has a plumage of electric blue and reddish-orange. However, despite their colourful appearance, they can be difficult to spot. Kingfishers often choose shade near a river or stream waiting for the right time to swoop down and catch a fish.
Although July brings out the lushest vegetation, and the most shade, recently fledged kingfishers can be seen moving to new habitats. If the stream or river has dried up, then adults are also on the move in July.
One of the British birds that have eluded me is the green woodpecker. Although they are large with a colourful appearance, they try to keep out of sight. If you are looking for a green woodpecker, then it is best to listen out for their characteristic call, known as a yaffle.
Green woodpeckers are extremely hard to spot during the breeding season, but sawdust piles at the bottom of a tree may be an indication of a nest above. Woodpeckers nest in holes in trees and during July, the young will be fledging. If you listen carefully, you may be able to hear their loud calls for food.
If you want to see one of the cutest, but most deadly birds in Britain then July is the best month. Young tawny owls, called owlets, look helpless and can often be found outside of their nest. If you do see one on the ground, do not touch it. The parents will be close and keeping watch on their young, getting more annoyed the longer you stay.
July is a great time to see tawny owls due to the abundance of food that small mammals provide. As most British mice and voles will have had at least one litter by July, tawny owls have a plentiful supply of food.
Tawny owlets can often be spotted sitting around on their own, but in good years when the previous seasons have been good, then two or more may be seen together.
The white-tailed eagle is one of Britain’s best success stories. Classed as extinct in 1916 the white-tailed eagle was reintroduced to parts of Scotland’s coast in 1968. There are now over 100 pairs of white-tailed eagles in Scotland and more can be seen across the rest of the UK.
If you are lucky enough to see a white-tailed eagle make sure that you do not disturb them or their nests as they are protected by law. While white-tailed eagles are now self-sustaining in the UK, unfortunately, they are still persecuted.
The common tern is a summer migrant to Britain and July is a great time to see them. They are usually found along the coast nesting on protected shingle beaches or sand dunes. They can also be seen nesting in gravel pits that have flooded.
In July, they often have chicks to feed and the adults can often be seen in flight. Common terns feed on fish and they can often be seen coming back to their nests with fish in their bills. As the young get bigger, so do the fish that they bring back. Terns are excellent at working out how big a fish their young can swallow safely.