5 Birds to find in March 2024


by bird-watching |
Published on

Though traditionally a quiet time of year for rarities, March heralds the first great change of bird populations of the year. Some wintering birds are already on their way north, while the first proper summer visitors are appearing. It really is a great time of year. Here are five birds to keep an eye/ear open for this month.

Ringed Plover

E4RAWD Sandregenpfeifer, Ringed Plover, Common Ringed Plover, Charadrius hiaticula, Grand Gravelot, Chorlitejo Grande

Though essentially coastal birds, present throughout the year at suitable estuaries and beaches and on mudflats around the country, Ringed Plovers also breed inland at suitable sites. And they usually only appear at these sites in late February or early March (usually before the largely inland breeding Little Ringed Plovers arrive from mid-month). They are larger, chunkier, more rounded birds than their similar, scarcer cousins, with bright orange legs and a bright orange base to the stumpy bill (and no pale eye ring), white wing-bar, plus an uplsurred, whistled ‘pooeep’ call.

Lesser Spotted Woodpecker

RA5P3M Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopus minor), perched on a thin vertical branch

The gorgeous little Lesser Spotted Woodpecker is a bird in serious trouble in the UK, with populations dwindling at horrifying rate across most of its range, which is mainly England and Wales (they are almost unheard of in Scotland). March is a good time to seek them out, as at this time of year they are more noisy, drumming and calling to claim and defend territories (or attract mates). As most leaves have not grown yet, they are also easier to see, especially as they often like being on high twigs in tall trees! The sounds are the best way of detecting the presence of LSWs; the drum (delivered by both sexes) is longer, more even and more rattling in quality than the louder, shorter bursts of Great Spotteds. The call is a ‘kee kee kee kee’ somewhat resembling the call of a Kestrel, and even said to resemble the laughing yaffle of a Green Woodpecker, at least in cadence, though it is a much higher sound.

Grey Heron

BWRXRG Grey Heron Ardea Cinerea Perched On Tree. Norfolk Broads. Spring Uk

Yes, you can see herons at any time of year, but rarely do these wonderful birds get the mentions they deserve in these pages, so why not pay these majestic fish-eaters a bit more attention this month. They nest colonially from early spring, in colonies known as heronries, where the large nests are grouped together high in trees (a bit like a rookery, but with larger nests). Herons are found all over the country, anywhere where there is a plentiful supply of fish to sneak up on, be it a pond, lake, gravel pit river or even at the coast.


DAN0WX Blackcap - male singing in Spring Sylvia atricapilla Essex, UK BI024757

From mid-March listen for the beautiful, fluty song of the Blackcap. It really is one of the great joys of early spring. We have an ever-increasing number of wintering Blackcaps in the UK, but the sound of the first males proclaiming territory is a real sign that spring migration is really starting. Blackcaps are quite large, grey-brown warblers; the males have black caps, the females’ caps are red-brown.

Corn Bunting

ATAR71 Corn bunting Milaria calandra spring adult singing Hertfordshire England UK April 2005

This beefy bunting was once a staple of agricultural land across the UK (particularly arable farmland, as implied by its name). These days, though, like so many farmland birds it is another species declining with alarming speed. Its jangling (‘shaking a bunch of keys’) song is as pleasing on the ear as it distinctive, but is no longer a familiar or expected sound over most of the country. Corn Buntings are surprisingly large birds, approaching Starlings, or at least Sky Larks in bulk, so despite their lack of distinctive markings (they are very much of the LBJ school of smaller bird), they are relatively easy to identify on size and shape alone. Go and see (and hear) them while you still can.

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