The Big Six

The Big Six

1

Gadwall

A fairly common dabbling duck found throughout the year, the Gadwall is only a little smaller than a Mallard. It nests in small numbers in the UK, on freshwater lakes with a lot of vegetation, but can be seen in larger numbers in winter at reservoirs, lakes, flooded gravel pits and coastal wetlands. Male Gadwalls are a grey brown colour with a black rear end. Both males and females can be distinguished by the white patches on their wings. The Gadwall is mainly found in south and eastern England, but can be seen anywhere.

Conservation status: classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.

2

Tufted Duck

Our most common diving duck, Tufted Ducks nest on flooded gravel pits and lakes and reservoirs, and gather in large flocks in the winter, often mixed with Pochard and Coot. Tufted Ducks feed on waterweed, plant seeds and aquatic invertebrates. Tufted Ducks are very distinctive: the female is entirely chocolate-brown, while the male is black with white flanks and a long tuft at the back of the head. The Tufted Duck can be found throughout the country, on lakes, reservoirs and gravel pits.

Conservation status: classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.

3

Shoveler

A common dabbling duck, particularly during the winter, Shovelers feed by sweeping their bills back and forth through the water, filtering out small invertebrates, plant seeds and other plant matter. The Shoveler lives up to its name and can be distinguished by its long, broad 'shovel' of a bill. The male has a dark green head, white breast and orangey-brown sides during the breeding season. Females are mottled brown but have a pale blue forewing. The Shoveler nests in southern and eastern England and in Scotland and is more common in the winter, when it is quite widespread throughout the country.

Conservation status: classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.

4

Cormorant

Cormorants are large, dark waterbirds. They feed on fish, which they catch with their long, hook-tipped bills while swimming underwater. Cormorants nest on low cliffs around the coasts, or in colonies in trees on lakes and flooded gravel pits inland. Cormorants can often be spotted perched on a rock or bank with their wings held stretched out. In this stance, they are able to dry their feathers off which are not waterproof. Adult Cormorants are large, shiny, black birds with a white patch on the thigh during the summer breeding season. Young birds are dark brown above and white below. Cormorants can be found around the coasts and on lakes, reservoirs and rivers inland.

Conservation status: common

5

Grey Heron

A tall, often solitary bird, the Grey Heron is one of Britain's most familiar birds. It feeds mainly on fish, but also eats small mammals (even Moles!), waterbirds (sometimes up to the size of a Coot) and Crayfish. It is often seen standing stock-still in the shallow waters of lakes, rivers and ponds, patiently hunting fish flitting about below the surface. It will visit gardens with ornamental ponds, looking for an easy meal. Easily recognised, grey-backed bird, with long legs, a long, white neck, bright yellow beak and a black eye-stripe which continues as long drooping feathers down the neck. Flies with its long legs stretched out but its neck pulled in. The Grey Heron can be found throughout the countryside, wherever there are fish to eat.

Conservation status: common

6

Little Egret

The Little Egret is a small, white heron which feeds on small fish and crustaceans. Once a very rare visitor from the Mediterranean, Little Egrets are now a common sight around the coasts of southern England and Wales as they expand their range, possibly due to climate change. It first bred in the UK on Brownsea Island, Dorset, in 1996, and has been moving northwards ever since; it was recorded as breeding in Berkshire for the first time in 2007. The Little Egret is a white heron with black legs and yellow feet. It has a black bill and long plumes on its head and neck during the breeding season. The Little Egret can be found around the coasts and estuaries of England and Wales, more rarely in Scotland and inland.

Conservation status: classified in the UK as an Amber List species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.