August brings out some of the best resident and migrant birds in Britain as the warmer weather continues. Some species will still be breeding in August, while others will be preparing themselves for winter. August is a fantastic time to spot some of Britain’s fantastic birds.
An often overlooked bird, the meadow pipit is a small brown bird with streaking on the flanks and chest. They can be found by listening for their distinctive “eest-eest-eest” call, similar to the rock pipit. If you are walking around the moors or meadows of northern England, you should be able to hear them.
Wherever you find meadow pipits, you may also find an assortment of birds of prey, including kestrels, hen harriers, short-eared owls, and merlins which all feed on the tiny bird.
Meadow pipits can be seen in August during the second breeding season, and their characteristic song can be heard trying to attract a mate.
It amazes many British people when they first see a colourful Ring-necked parakeet flying in the wild. Their strange screeches from the treetops are often the first sign that one is close, and they can be seen flitting between trees.
Their plumage is green with a red beak and can be found throughout southeast England, especially London, and can often be seen visiting gardens to feed at bird tables. Ring-necked parakeets stay all year in England, and in August, when their young have been raised, they can be seen in family groups.
One of my favourite crow family members, the Jackdaw is also the smallest. Adults can be identified by their silver-grey cheeks and neck, although young jackdaws lack this feature. They seem to have the most energy out of the crow family and are very inquisitive and full of character.
They can often be seen in large groups, especially in late August. Nesting will have finished, and large flocks can be seen consisting of adults and juveniles. They can be found throughout Britain, apart from the most northern parts of Scotland.
In August, the best place to see the Cirl bunting is in southwest England, especially Devon. They can usually be found around water due to their diet. As they feed mainly on seeds, they have no problem finding food in summer, but although these provide protein, they contain little water.
In August, Cirl buntings can often be seen around coastal regions, pools, or birdbaths. If you see one in your garden, then they will often come back every few hours to drink and bathe. However, they are cautious and are often preyed upon while drinking, so they will not stick around for long.
Bee-eaters are not resident in Britain, but a few can be seen, especially in August. Most bee-eaters fly southwards from northern Europe to warmer climates as the migration is underway. Some of these may fly in the wrong direction or end up in Britain due to bad weather.
Most bee-eaters in Britain are juveniles on their first migration, but adults occasionally turn up. The bee-eater is a colourful bird with a turquoise chest, yellow cheeks, and orange-brown upper parts. They can often be heard calling “pju” softly and rapidly.
As Britain’s smallest bird, the Goldcrest is easy to miss. They measure just nine centimetres from front to bill to tail and have a distinctive crown stripe and large dark eyes. The crown stripe is orange in males and yellow in females.
In August, they can be found in wooded areas, with conifers being their preferred habitat for nesting. Once the breeding season has finished, they move into other woodlands. They can be seen nesting even as late as August, returning to their nests to feed their young.
They can be heard making a high-pitched “zit-zit-zit” call and an arpeggiated song repeating four or five times.
Although not as exotic as other birds on this list, the rock dove is our domestic pigeon. They have to be on this list because they can be seen almost everywhere in August. Raising four or five broods over 12 months, the largest flocks of pigeons can be seen in late August.
While a mild winter in Britain mean that pigeons can raise their young at almost any time of the year, most young are born in the summer. By August, the young make up many of the common pigeons seen in urban and rural areas.
Although not native to Britain, the Canada goose was introduced over 300 years ago. The Canada goose is a large, brownish, black and white goose. They nest in loose colonies of territorial pairs and stay together until the young are ready to fledge. They can be found throughout Britain except for the most northern parts of Scotland.
While many stay in Britain throughout the year, August is an excellent time to see them flying in their characteristic V formations. Many Canadian geese migrate to Britain in autumn, so you have a better chance of seeing an excellent aerial display at this time.
The Rook is similar in shape, sound, and look to the Carrion crow but have a grey featherless face and bill. Their nests can often be seen together in the treetops, making their homes close to fields, farms, and villages.
Rooks are highly active in August following their early breeding season. To survive the winter, rooks and birds, in general, need to be in their best physical shape. They can often be seen in large flocks searching for food and spotted in newly ploughed fields and grassland. As with many members of the crow family, they can be seen hanging around parks or bins feeding on scraps of food.
The Woodchat shrike is becoming more popular in Britain and can be seen sometimes as early as May in Britain. They usually prefer the weather in the Mediterranean, although the warmer summers often bring them to our shores. They prefer coastal scrub and can often be seen sitting on barbed wire fences.
Late August is one of the best times to see the Woodchat shrike as adults often appear on our shores before returning to their nesting areas in France, Portugal and Spain in October.