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Bird migration is one of natures miracles

so it is worth celebrating especially as many come to Portbury Wharf

At least 4,000 species of birds migrate, that is about 40 per cent of all the world’s birds.  Bird migration is a perilous business as they often have to fly hundreds or even thousands of miles.

So World Migratory Bird Day, this year on Saturday 10th October 2020, raises awareness and highlights the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. You can find out more at World Migratory Bird Day.


Why do birds migrate?

Did you know the Arctic Tern flies all the way between the Arctic summer and the Antarctic summer so sees more daylight than any other animal.

Birds migrate to find the best ecological conditions and habitats for feeding, breeding and raising their young. When conditions become unfavourable, it is time to fly to regions where conditions are better.

Most birds in colder northern countries migrate south to escape harsh winters. In temperate regions, such as the UK, about half the species migrate. For example birds that eat insects will not be able to find enough food here in winter so they fly south.   While tropical birds have less need to migrate as they have a more constant food supply and conditions.


When do birds migrate?

Migratory birds generally migrate twice a year, once in autumn and again in spring. In autumn they will be flying to find a good place to spend the winter and in spring a favourable region to nest and raise their young.


What are the threats to bird migration?

Dunlin migration – many hundreds come to Portbury Wharf

The Migratory Species Status Report released by the Convention on Migratory Species in February 2020 indicates that migratory bird populations are in notable decline at a global scale. The threats that migratory birds face are numerous, diverse and widespread. They range from local issues such as poisoning and pollution, to global impacts such as large-scale habitat loss and fragmentation as well as the compounding effects of climate change.


How can we protect and conserve them?

Actions at every level from intergovernmental bodies to local communities have the capacity to contribute towards improving protection for migratory birds. Actions at the community level, such as cleaning up the local environment, establishing local reserves and minimising disturbance are great opportunities to improve protection for migratory birds.


How can we help the birds at Portbury Wharf?

Dunlin by the old jetty

Many of the birds that fly incredible distances to spend the winter with us are now endangered. Some may even be nearing extinction. While they are here the birds on the nature reserve’s pools should be safe, at least from human disturbance.

Special care for birds on the salt marsh

As the salt marsh is such a popular area, birds here are not as safe as those on the reserve. So it is important that we share the area with our wildlife and give them plenty of space so they can get enough food and rest to survive the winter.  So if you are enjoying a walk by the salt marsh then keeping close to the sea wall will ensure they are not driven off. 

Curlews and a Redshank on the salt marsh – they are very hard to see from a distance


The winter birds which migrate to Portbury Wharf

Portbury Wharf is a very important area for wintering wildfowl. This is when the estuary, salt marsh and nature reserve welcome many hundreds of shoreline birds. Some wading birds will keep mainly to the estuary edge and salt marsh where they can find food in the mud at low tide. Others will be happy on the pools in the nature reserve. But it is not just water birds that come here. In the hedgerows look out for the winter thrushes like fieldfares and redwings who will be searching for juicy berries.

Some of our winter birds and where you might see them

This is not an exhaustive list by any means. For example you may see a starling or shelduck at anytime of the year but their numbers will swell in winter as birds from other countries join them. You may be surprised to know that even the blackbirds in your garden in January could well be winter visitors from Eastern Europe.

(Species photos will be added soon)

Name Where they usually hang out At risk
Black-tailed Godwit Estuary and Pools RED
Common Snipe Salt Marsh and Pools AMBER
Curlew Estuary, Salt Marsh and Pools RED


Estuary, Salt Marsh and Pools AMBER
Fieldfare Hedgerows RED
Jack Snipe Salt Marsh and Pools AMBER
Lapwing Salt Marsh and Pools RED
Pochard Pools RED
Redwing Hedgerows RED
Shoveler Salt Marsh and Pools AMBER
Teal Estuary, Salt Marsh and Pools AMBER
Male wigeon


Estuary, Salt Marsh and Pools AMBER

 Tell others about the importance of protecting migratory birds and their habitats. 

You can find out more at: