Tawny Owl: Strix Aluco
As you might expect, tawny owls have excellent eyesight, but they also have fantastic hearing, which makes it easier for them to catch their prey. This species can be found living in England, Wales and Scotland, usually in broadleaf woodland. The tawny owl has a ring of dark feathers around its face, surrounding dark eyes.
Green Woodpecker: Picus Viridis
The large green woodpecker has a bright red crown and a black moustache. Green woodpeckers don’t actually peck that much wood, because they have fairly weak bills. This bird used to be known as the “yaffle”, which is how the animated, carved woodpecker bookend - Professor Yaffle - got his name in the classic 1970s children’s television show “Bagpuss”.
Pied Flycatcher: Ficedula Hypoleuca
The pied flycatcher is a summer visitor to these shores, preferring to spend the winter in West Africa. You’ll find these birds in mature woodlands, mainly in western parts of Great Britain, because they like temperate rainforests. They make their nests in tree trunks and nest boxes, where the females lay up to seven light blue eggs at a time.
Wood Warbler: Phylloscopus Sibilatrix
These bright green and yellow birds tend to stick to oak woodland areas across the UK. Their song is a slightly metallic-sounding chirp, which some have compared to the sound of a small coin spinning on a table. Wood warblers migrate to Africa in August and come back to the UK towards the end of April.
Woodcock: Scolopax Rusticola
The woodcock is a large wading bird with short legs and a long, straight bill. Its feathers are mottled and brown, allowing the woodcock to blend in with the woodland floor. Woodcock feathers were used to paint the gold stripe on the side of the Rolls Royce and before that, they were popular with Victorian miniaturists who favoured them for painting on ivory.
Hawfinch: Coccothraustes Coccothraustes
The hawfinch is the UK’s largest finch and has a very powerful bill. This timid bird can be tricky to spot but tends to nest in woodland or parkland in England, particularly near beech, oak and hornbeam trees. Some hawfinches stay in the UK all year round, but others fly south for the winter.
Willow Tit: Poecile Montanus
Willow tits tend to live in wet woodland and willow carr across England, Wales and the south of Scotland. Their diet is rich in insects, but they also eat seeds and berries in the winter when there are fewer creepy crawlies about. Willow tits carve out their own nesting holes, usually in trees or rotten stumps.
Goshawk: Accipiter Gentilis
These fierce hawks have a wingspan of around 1.5m and can weave in and out of trees, hunting their prey which includes smaller birds, squirrels and rabbits. The female of the species is larger than the male. The name goshawk comes from the Old English for “goose hawk”.
Red Deer: Cervus Elaphus
These truly majestic animals are the UK’s largest native land mammals, and you’ll find most of them in Scotland, although there are herds dotted all around the country. Red deer can weigh as much as 190kg, and live for up to 20 years. Males (stags) and females (hinds) tend to live apart for most of the year, then they get together to mate in the autumn and their young are born in the late spring and early summer.
Dormouse: Muscardinus Avellanarius
The dormouse, or hazel dormouse, makes its home in the overgrown hedgerows and deciduous woodland of southern England. UK dormouse populations have declined in this century and they are strictly protected by law. You might remember the dormouse who kept falling asleep during the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party in Alice in Wonderland; probably because dormice are nocturnal and the party was during the day!
Pine Marten: Martes Martes
Pine martens live in woodland habitats across Scotland and Ireland, but are on the verge of extinction in England and Wales. This elusive nocturnal hunter is tricky to spot, but if you do see one you’ll recognise it by the distinctive yellow “bib” on its otherwise rich brown fur. In 2013, an intrepid pine marten caused quite a stir when it invaded the pitch during a football match in Switzerland, biting one of the players!
Badger: Meles Meles
This black and white striped mammal is the UK’s largest land predator, and can be found living all around the country. Badgers make their homes underground in networks of burrows and tunnels known as setts, with the same family occupying the area for generations. It can be tricky to spot badgers in the wild because they are nocturnal, but during warmer weather in the summer, they occasionally emerge just before sunset.
Roe Deer: Capreolus Capreolus
Roe deer live on their own or in small groups throughout England and Scotland, feeding on leaves, shrubs, heather and grass. Male roe deer have quite short antlers, which begin to grow in November so that they are ready for the summer rutting season, then fall out again in October. Roe deer mate in July and August, but implantation of the fertilised egg is delayed until January so that the young aren’t born in the winter.
Barbastelle Bat: Barbastella Barbastellus
This distinctive-looking bat has a flat face and makes its home in deciduous woodland, preferably near water, in England and Wales. The Latin name “barbastella” means “star beard”, because this bat has white hairs growing around its mouth. It is an incredibly rare, protected species, with as few as 5,000 believed to be living in the UK.
Bechstein’s Bat: Myotis Bechsteinii
Bechstein’s bat is very rare and lives almost exclusively in woodland areas. This species is hard to detect because its echolocation is very quiet. Like other species of bat, Bechstein’s bat is nocturnal, and listens out for woodland moths, then catches and eats them.
Natterer’s Bat: Myotis Nattereri
Natterer’s bats are medium-sized with fairly long ears, and although quite rare, they live all over the UK. They feed on insects, many of which they forage straight from the foliage around them. They hibernate in small rock crevices, often in groups, and can contort themselves into all kinds of weird and wonderful positions.
Brown Long-Eared Bat: Plecotus Auritus
As the name suggests, these medium-sized bats have huge ears: nearly as long as their bodies, in fact! They have grey-brown fur and like to roost in old buildings and holes in tree trunks. They prick up their ears when they are flying to aid with hunting, but can roll them back when resting and even tuck them under their wings.
Stag Beetle: Lucanus Cervus
You’ll find the UK’s biggest beetle in parks, gardens and woods in South East England. Stag beetles have huge jaws, but their bite isn’t actually that powerful so they don’t pose much of a threat to humans. It can take as long as seven years for stag beetle larvae to grow into adults, and once they do, they only live for a few months!
Glow Worm: Lampyris Noctiluca
The female glow worm can light up at night to attract a mate in the darkness. Despite the name, glow worms actually look a bit more like beetles than worms. They are only adults for a very short time in the summer months.
Common Lizard: Zootoca Vivipara
The common lizard incubates its eggs inside its body, then gives birth to live young, which is unusual for a reptile. If it feels threatened, this clever reptile can shed its tail to confuse the predator for long enough to get out of danger. The common lizard likes the sunshine and you might even be able to spot one in your garden.
Grass Snake: Natrix Helvetica
Grass snakes pose no threat to humans because they are non-venomous and tend not to bite. Long green and yellow grass snakes can be found throughout England and Wales. You can spot them between April and October, as they hibernate for the rest of the year.
Slow Worm: Anguis Fragilis
The slow worm looks a bit like a snake, but it is actually Britain’s only native legless lizard. They evolved without legs because they spend a lot of their time burrowing through soil and vegetation. If the slow worm senses danger nearby, it will try pooing in the hope that the smell puts the predator off.
Smooth Newt: Lissotriton Vulgaris
You’ll find these newts throughout Britain and Ireland, where they are protected by law. Adults head for ponds to mate and generally stay there from February to June. The female smooth newt wraps each of her eggs in an individual pond weed leaf to keep it safe.
Palmate Newt: Lissotriton Helveticus
Britain’s smallest species of newt looks a lot like the smooth newt, but prefers shallow pools and acidic soils. The males grow black webbing on their back feet during the breeding season. Palmate newts don’t exactly hibernate, but they do spend the winter sheltering under rocks, or in compost or mud.
Great Crested Newt: Triturus Cristatus
The UK’s biggest newt is dark brown or black and covered in warts. Males dance on their front legs and wave their tails when trying to court females. The animals and their eggs, breeding sites and resting places are protected by law.
Common Frog: Rana Temporaria
Common frogs have smooth skin and are most active at night. This clever amphibian uses its long, sticky tongue to catch insects like worms, slugs and snails. Garden ponds are very important for common frogs and suburban populations depend on them.
Grey Squirrel: Sciurus Carolinensis
Grey squirrels first arrived in the UK from their native North America in the 1800s. Their introduction to these shores has been a disaster for red squirrels, as greys carry squirrelpox, to which they themselves are immune, but which can infect and kill reds. Grey squirrels also cause mayhem in woods where they strip the bark from trees, damaging them in the process.
Edible Dormouse: Glis Glis
The Romans used to breed edible dormice to eat as a snack. These rodents look a bit like tiny squirrels, with greyish fur and brown tails. Britain’s edible dormouse population is confined to the Chilterns and nearby woodlands.
Muntjac Deer: Muntiacus Reevesi
This small hump-backed deer originally came to the UK from China and can now be spotted here all year round. Muntjac deer are not much bigger than foxes and hang around in small family groups rather than large herds. Sadly, they can damage important wildflower species in the woodlands they visit.