Protecting our coastal birds

Protecting our coastal birds

© Amy Lewis

The Solent is one of the country’s most important locations for over-wintering birds - to continue to protect them we need to know more about their habits.

We're at the forefront of efforts to conserve the Solent’s critically important
populations of overwintering coastal birds for the past 15 years.

Birdlife under pressure

The Solent is one of the most important coastal zones in the UK, providing an internationally important over-wintering area for waders, ducks and geese. As a result, its recognised and protected at national and international levels.

However the Solent is also one of the busiest shipping lanes in Europe, and is heavily used recreationally by people on the water and at its very built-up edge. Combine this with rising sea levels, our coastal habitats and the birds that rely on them are being squeezed out.

Brent geese in Langstone Harbour

© Deryn Hawkins

Going beyond protected areas

While protecting key areas is important, the reality is that many species depend on a much wider area for their survival. It's essential that we have a clear understanding of which sites are important for wintering birds. 

At Hampshire & Isle of Wight Wildlife Trust we initiated a Solent Waders and Brent Goose Strategy, working in partnership with other conservation organisations and local councils. The first comprehensive survey was done in 2002. Since then it's been updated and expanded to include the whole of the Solent, including the northern coastline of the Isle of Wight. Through a programme of long-term surveying and mapping, over 15,000 records from 1,000 different sites across the Solent have helped us locate the key places that these bird populations need to thrive.

Most importantly we've been able to follow how birds move between sites, giving us a much better picture of the locations that now need protecting or mitigating when councils are making decisions on planning applications. 

Read the report here

Discover our key species

Brent geese

Adult dark-bellied Brent goose

© Jason Crook

Around 91,000 dark-bellied Brent geese travel to Britain each autumn from their nesting grounds in Siberia. They spend their winters feeding in our sheltered estuaries and coastal marshes - the Solent supports about 30% of the UK population. Brent geese are long-lived birds, with the oldest known UK individual over 28 years old.


Curlew at Keyhaven Marshes

Curlew at Keyhaven Marshes © James West

Large numbers of curlew overwinter in the Solent to escape freezing temperatures further north; the largest flocks can be seen in Chichester and Langstone Harbours, and good numbers occur on the mudflats around Southampton Water and Beaulieu Estuary.

Common redshank

Common redshank

© Trevor Codlin

Redshank breed on wet habitats like saltmarshes, flood meadows and around lakes. A number of common redshank now rely on old sea defences along the shore of Portsmouth Harbour near Portchester. 

Black-tailed godwit

Black-tailed godwit

© Trevor Codlin

The black-tailed godwit is one of the primary reasons for the Solent’s designation as a European Special Protection Area. A small number of non-breeding black-tailed godwit reside in the Solent all year round, but many thousands more arrive here in winter to avoid colder weather in Iceland.



© Tom Marshall

Research has suggested that dunlins' breeding distribution is moving further north in response to climate change. Quietly chattering flocks, numbering hundreds of birds gathering to roost can be seen across the Solent, including at Farlington Marshes nature reserve.

Support our coastal birds

We are urgently looking for volunteers to help us survey Brent and waders using the Solent coast of the Isle of Wight. See here for further details. 

Together we can continue to secure protections for these wonderful species. Help us protect our waders, wildfowl and other bird species across our counties by donating to our conservation work.

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