The Whitlingham Bird Report 2020 is available now (click here)

For previous years (2012-2019) see the links on the Whitlingham Bird List page.

Whitlingham Bird List & Reports

Justin Lansdell & I are still working towards compiling a book detailing the birds of Whitlingham. In the meantime if you are interested in the birds seen at Whitlingham then please check out my yearly bird reports using the links below, or see the species list on this page.

The most recent Whitlingham Bird Report (2020) can be found here

The Whitlingham Bird Report (2019) can be found here

Whitlingham Bird Report 2019

The Whitlingham Bird Report (2018) can be found here

The Whitlingham Bird Report (2017) can be found here

The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2016 can be found here.
The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2015 can be found here.
The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2014 can be found here.
The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2013 can be found here.
The Whitlingham Bird Report for 2012 can be found here.
  Thanks to everyone who has contributed sightings, information and photos to these reports.

Whitlingham Species List
Here is a guide to the species of bird seen in the Whitlingham area. There will undoubtedly be some errors and omissions, feel free to email me or comment somewhere if you spot anything obvious. For yearly updates please see my Whitlingham Bird Reports.

Species Guide
This list is a combination of my personal sightings, published records, personal communications and data gathered from websites. Most are written here "as is" and it is possible that some species have been misidentified. Escapes and birds of dubious origin are included separately. Many thanks to Andy Musgrove for providing data taken from his monthly WeBS counts at Whitlingham. If you have seen a bird at Whitlingham or Thorpe that is not on this list, or have further details to add, then I would be glad to hear from you!

1. Mute Swan – Resident species with up to five pairs breeding annually.
2. Bewick’s Swan – Occasional flocks seen flying over, presumably commuting between the Wash and Broadland flock
3. Whooper Swan – Occasional flocks seen flying over.
4. Pink-footed Goose – Flocks seen flying over during the winter period
5. White-fronted Goose – Two fairly recent records of single birds seem odd – perhaps they refer to a Lesser White-fronted Goose hybrid that spent some time at Buckenham. This leaves a record of eight flying over in Jan 2003. Given that they winter at Buckenham each year they remain a possibility as flyovers on passage.
6. Greylag Goose – Common resident and winter visitor. 
7. Canada Goose – Seen throughout the year. Numbers increase in spring and several pairs breed before decreasing in winter.  An escaped ‘small’ Canada Goose joined the flock in winter 2007 but wasn’t identified to subspecies level. 
8. Barnacle Goose – A single bird, either an escape or a straggler from one of the feral flocks (e.g. Buckenham, Hickling) was seen on several dates in 2009 and once in 2010. Before this a group of six were present in 2002, also presumably feral birds.
9. Brent Goose – Several records in recent years, including one that stayed for a while in Feb 2012.
10. Egyptian Goose – Resident breeder. In the winter several pairs can be found defending territories in the meadows opposite the country park.
11. Shelduck – Seen occasionally on Thorpe Broad
12. Mandarin – Several records, the last of which was in March 2010.
13. Wigeon – Winter visitor, up to 10 in the conservation area with more on Thorpe Station Marshes.  A flock of 43 (17/09/11) was exceptional.
14. Gadwall – Resident, large numbers in winter (max count of 720 in January 2011). No evidence of breeding noted in recent years.
15. Teal – A few seen in most months, with up to 100 in winter.  All time maximum count is 360 from 2002, although this was probably exceeded in Jan/Feb 2012, when I managed two counts of around 350, which due to the numbers in inlets and sleeping on the island was almost certainly an undercount.
16. Green-winged Teal – Two records, both before GWT was recognised as a full species (16/01/99 and 06/11/05).
17. Mallard – Common. Also a number of ‘domestic-types’ mostly involving dark birds with white fronts.
18. Pintail – Three records of females in recent years: 18th November 2006, November 2009 during a WeBS count and 2 in Feb 2012.  A number of sightings in Dec 98 and Jan 99 suggest one overwintered.
19. Garganey - Scarce but occurs fairly regularly on passage in spring.  I am yet to see one at Whitlingham, so any would appreciate news of any sightings!
20. Shoveler – Low numbers present throughout winter
21. Red-crested Pochard – Near-annual, with birds occurring in autumn or winter. These may relate to a combination of movement from the near continent, escapes or birds released for shooting at sites such as Flixton Gravel Pits. Two in autumn 2010 coincided with at least five other birds in the broads, suggesting a movement from somewhere.
22. Pochard – Usually one pair stay throughout the year, but a notable increase over the winter period.  In harsh conditions numbers can reach around 100. Highest count was 182 in 2013.
23. Ferruginous Duck – A 1st-winter drake was found on 19th January 2012 and was present until the 22nd. A description was submitted to the county rarities committee. The bird is currently officially in a sort of limbo, in as far as Ferruginous Duck records are being placed in a specially created appendix to the main list due to concerns about hybrid genes and captive origin. It remains my view that there were no specific hybrid features noted and as it was seen at a reasonable time of year, was unringed and didn't hang around that this is all you can ask for when looking for a wild bird. One in November 2007 was seen to be ringed and therefore an escape.
24. Ring-necked Duck – A returning female was seen in 2008 (from 11th November) and again in February 2010. A female seen in December 2012 was considered by some observers to be a different bird to the individual seen in Broadland each winter from Nov 2008 to Feb 2012, although the likelihood is that it would be the same I suppose.
25. Tufted Duck – Resident, more numerous in winter. One pair has bred at Thorpe in recent years.
26. Scaup – Scarcer recently, previously one present most winters.
27. Common Scoter – Small groups are occasionally seen after periods of inclement weather. The most recent records were a drake on Thorpe Broad in 2009, a drake on the Great Broad in August 2012, a female-type for a week in December 2012 and a drake on 27th March 2016.

28. Velvet Scoter - one seen and photographed on the Great Broad in November 2016.
29. Long-tailed Duck - One winter record in November 2005.
30. Goldeneye – Not as common as you may expect. Small numbers occur in winter, with a 1st-winter drake present until April 2012 at Thorpe Broad.
31. Smew – More common in recent years, invariably redheads in January/February.
32. Goosander – UEA is a more traditional site, but up to six were present in 2010 and there are usually at least one or two each winter.
33. Red-breasted Merganser - Two winter records, 24/11/04 and Feb 2012.
34. Ruddy Duck – Several records, most recently a female-type bird was present in January 2010. Given the efforts to cull this species, it is unlikely there will be another one.
35. Red-legged Partridge – Present in low numbers on nearby farmland, and a pair seen on several occasions in the meadows opposite the country park.
36. Grey Partridge – Present in the area before the broad was excavated. Now not present in the local area, but still clinging on in TG20 near Howe.
37. Pheasant – Common resident. 
38. Great Northern Diver – A juvenile was present from Dec 2009 to March 2010, having made its way slowly up the Yare in the presiding week.
39. Cormorant – Common resident, up to 40 birds roost in the trees on the island. Sinensis and carbo race birds both occur – I’m trying to work out in what proportions! [Edit] - high proportion of the birds are sinensis.
40. Shag – One seen in early January 2010 and one seen in September 2011.
41. Bittern – Becoming more regular in winter.  Now seemingly present each winter, although difficult to see and typically only reported once or twice, most often along the north shore of the Great Broad in January. There have also been a couple of records in March, which probably relate to birds moving back down the valley.
42. Little Egret – Occasionally seen in flight, usually in the evening.
43. Great White Egret – Three records. One seen on 04/11/07 near the sewage works was accepted by the rarities committee, whilst one in Feb 2012 was presumably the Marlingford individual re-orientating, and has also been accepted by the county rarities committee.
44. Grey Heron – Resident. Two juveniles fledged nearby in both 2010 and 2011 and up to six can be seen at a time.
45. White Stork – An old record from 1961 is described in the 1961 BBRC report. It overwintered from 23rd Dec to 2nd February 1962, when it was unfortunately found dead. A more recent record may relate to a wild bird or a Thrigby escape.
46. Little Grebe – Resident, secretive in summer.  A report of 30+ in the 2010 Bird & Mammal is an error (referring to GC grebes, which did number 30+ at the time) as no more than 5 were seen by other observers at a time when birder numbers was high due to other scarce wildfowl.  If anyone knows different then by all means let me know.
47. Great Crested Grebe – Resident, several pairs breed. Maximum count of 49 in Jan 2010.
48. Red-necked Grebe – Occasional winter visitor, most recently in Jan 2010.
49. Slavonian Grebe – Occasional winter visitor, most recently in December 2012 when one spent an afternoon at Thorpe Broad and in January 2013 (present for over a week).
50. Black-necked Grebe – Occasional winter visitor, most recently at Thorpe in Jan 2017.
51. Red Kite - One seen over Thorpe in 2011.  2012 saw a marked increase in sightings, firstly in May at Thorpe Marsh, but subsequently also at Whitlingham during the summer. A bird was present during spring 2014.
52. Honey Buzzard – One reported flying over 04/07/04.
53. Marsh Harrier – Occasionally seen, mostly over Thorpe Marsh in the evenings.  Presumably birds from Strumpshaw/Wheatfen, where there is a breeding population and a winter roost. In 2012 up to four individuals were seen, including a regular pale male.
54. Hen Harrier – Rare winter visitor. One seen at Thorpe in January 2013.
55. Goshawk – One reported from Thorpe Marshes on 11/04/10.
56. Sparrowhawk – Resident
57. Buzzard – A bird that presumably has a territory south of Norwich is seen infrequently over the country park, with others occasionally seen either on passage or moving up the Yare Valley.
58. Osprey – Rare passage migrant. Birds are regularly seen at Rockland and Strumpshaw, so it is surprising that there aren’t more records.
59. Kestrel – Resident
60. Merlin - One reported in 2002 ad a more recent record from Thorpe.
61. Hobby – Rare passage migrant. Birds summer at Strumpshaw so surprising there aren’t more records.  One seen on Thorpe Marsh summer 2011. One did appear to spend the spring in the area during 2012, being seen regularly at Thorpe and occasionally at Whitlingham.
62. Peregrine – Several sightings. With up to four present around Norwich Cathedral in 2011, Peregrines should become a more common sight.  The Cathedral spire is just visible from the top of the Lime tree avenue.
63. Water Rail – Usually seen in winter but could be resident.

[Spotted Crake - One caught and ringed in the Whitlingham area on 2nd August 1992 - further investigation suggests this record was outside the current recording area)
64. Moorhen – Resident breeder
65. Coot – Resident breeder, numbers swell in winter
66. Crane – A flock of nine seen flying over Whitlingham Lane in January 2013 and two records in 2017.
67. Oystercatcher – Up to six seen at Thorpe Station Marsh, and often a pair at the sewage works
68. Avocet – Occasional sightings on Thorpe Station Marsh
69. Little Ringed Plover – Summer visitor to Thorpe Station Marsh
70. Ringed Plover – Rare, a few records from Thorpe Station Marsh
71. Golden Plover – Occasionally seen in flight
72. Grey Plover – One seen at Thorpe Station Marsh in Feb 2012
73. Lapwing – Resident, a few pairs breed in the local area, numbers up to c100 in winter, plus flocks seen flying over in winter.
74. Knot - Rare (Dec 2002, May 2004 and Feb 2012)
75. Little Stint – One record (17/09/98)
76. Dunlin – Rare. One seen on the Little Broad in 2010.  One at Thorpe Station Marsh in Feb 2012, and a high count of ten that spring.

77. Sanderling - one at Thorpe Marsh in spring 2017.

78. Ruff - Rare (a flock of 28 in Jan 2012 was exceptional)
79. Jack Snipe – Occasional visitor, often during periods of harsh weather.
80. Snipe – Winter visitor, more numerous during harsh weather (e.g. 20+ in 2009/10).
81. Woodcock - Uncommon winter visitor.
82. Black-tailed Godwit – Previously large numbers occurred, now occasionally seen in winter or as flyovers. 
Bar-tailed Godwit – I have not heard of any records but has presumably been seen either as a migrant or when the broad was being dug out and was more attractive to waders.
83. Whimbrel – Several seen in spring 2009 and another seen in May 2011.
84. Curlew – Occasional flyover records.
85. Common Sandpiper – Annual passage migrant. A group of seven seen in 2010.
86. Green Sandpiper – Several birds present most springs on Thorpe Station Marshes.
87. Wood Sandpiper – Rare, several records, most recently at Thorpe Marshes in July 2012.
88. Greenshank – Rare, one stayed for around a month in 2009 and up to five were seen in August 2011.
89. Redshank – Near annual spring migrant at Thorpe Marsh.
90. Spotted Redshank – At least one record, no details.
91. Turnstone – Rare.  A report from Thorpe St Andrew (24/05/10) presumably relates to Thorpe Marsh.
92. Kittiwake – An adult on the Great Broad with a large flock of gulls (13/04/13). One previous record and one found dead in 2017.
93. Black-headed Gull – Resident, large gull roost when the broad freezes in winter.
94. Little Gull – Annually seen on spring passage, unusual winter record in winter with Black headed Gulls in 2010 (04/01/10).
95. Mediterranean Gull – Several records. In early 2015 a confiding 1st-winter was present nearby at Thorpe St Andrew green and one photographed at Whitlingham in 2016. Several other records.
96. Common Gull – Fairly common in winter.
97. Lesser Black-backed Gull – A few all year round, although most common in summer.  Large groups from nearby farmland congregate in the evening before flying to roost.
98. Herring Gull – Fairly common, especially in winter.
99. Yellow-legged Gull – Several records, mainly in August and October.  Becoming commoner, one was seen in January 2012.
100. Caspian Gull – Four records. The first two were both in January with other large gulls (03/01/07 and 07/01/09). The other two were in 2012, a 3rd-winter on 31st March 2012 and a 1st-winter on 6th October 2012. As of 2013 Caspian Gull will be assessed as a County rarity, so any sightings should be documented and sent to the county rarities committee.
101. Iceland Gull – One record, a 3rd-summer seen between 26th-30th May 1997 (although not reported on the 27th).
102. Great Black-backed Gull – Annual in small numbers.
103. Little Tern – Rare, one on 24/04/09
104. Black Tern – Uncommon passage migrant. A small influx in autumn 2010.
105. Sandwich Tern – Rare (3 records). The last record was on 24/04/09 - a good day for terns!
106. Common Tern – Annual passage migrant.
107. Arctic Tern – Rare, two in spring 2010 and a prolonged passage in spring 2012.
108. Feral Pigeon – Flocks from Norwich and Thorpe seen in flight throughout the year.
109. Stock Dove – Resident on Thorpe Marshes, occasionally seen elsewhere
110. Woodpigeon – Common resident
111. Collared Dove – Small numbers present, mostly in gardens along Whitlingham Lane
112. Turtle Dove – Occasional sightings on spring passage 
113. Cuckoo – Heard most years in late April/early May, mostly on passage.  Two in June 2011, including the BTO tracked bird "Lyster". In 2012 at least four individuals were present, a pair at Thorpe and calling two calling males at Whitlingham.
114. Barn Owl – Elusive resident. Several pairs breed at the Sewage Works. Two were seen hunting over Thorpe Marsh in spring 2012.
115. Little Owl – Several records but possibly outside the recording area. I would be interested in hearing of any recent sightings.
116. Tawny Owl – A pair present in 2011, presumably a scarce resident.
117. Short-eared Owl – One present at Thorpe Station Marsh at least 28/10/11-01/11/11, and up to three reported in winter 2009/10 at Whitlingham Marsh
118. Swift – Common summer visitor
119. Alpine Swift – One record (02/04/06), which was accepted by the BBRC.
120. Kingfisher – Resident
121. Green Woodpecker – Resident

122. Great Spotted Woodpecker – Resident
123. Lesser Spotted Woodpecker – Present before the C.P. became heavily visited. but probably locally extinct by c2005.
124. Golden Oriole - One record that I am aware of, for one day at Thorpe Marshes on 06/06/99.
125. Skylark – Flocks seen flying over in winter, particular early mornings
126. Sand Martin – Common summer visitor
127. Swallow – Common summer visitor

128. Red-rumped Swallow - One was observed for about 15 minutes on 13th May 2013. Interestingly one was seen at Colney GPs about the same time in 2012, so it may have been a returning bird. This sighting was submitted to the county records committee and accepted.
129. House Martin – Common passage migrant
130. Meadow Pipit – Small flocks in winter, occasionally at other times
131. Rock Pipit – One seen on Thorpe side of the river at the old gravel workings (29/03/08)
132. Water Pipit – Five seen at Whitlingham 18/01/06, two at Thorpe 25/03/10 and one at Thorpe on 16/04/10.
133. Yellow Wagtail – Rare. Several records from before 2007, since then two birds heard-only at Thorpe Marsh in spring 2012.
134. Grey Wagtail – Regular, probably breeds on sections of river downstream
135. Pied Wagtail – Resident
136. Waxwing – Uncommon winter visitor, most sightings are brief or relate to flyovers.
137. Wren – Common resident
138. Dunnock – Resident
139. Robin – Common resident
140. Nightingale – One seen in 2007 in Whitlingham Woods, then two singing males in May 2012. Several singing both at Whitlingham and in the area nearby since, although not always broadcast at the time to prevent disturbance.

Black Redstart – no reports but surely a candidate on spring passage?
141. Redstart – One record, from the conservation area scrub on 04/10/03.
142. Stonechat – Occasional winter visitor at Thorpe Marshes or Whitlingham Marsh, including wintering birds in 2016/17 and 2017/18.
143. Whinchat - Rare passage migrant, usually in May or early autumn. Two reported at Thorpe Marsh in spring 2012. Two also seen on several dates in 2015 and spring and autumn sightings in 2017.
144. Wheatear – Rare passage migrant, two seen at Thorpe Marsh in 2011.
145. Ring Ouzel – One record, on 22/05/04. One was reported from Thorpe St Andrews in 2011 (unknown as to whether it was at Thorpe Marsh or not) and several records since.
146. Blackbird – Common resident
147. Fieldfare – Winter visitor in varying numbers
148. Song Thrush – Scarce resident
149. Redwing – Common winter visitor
150. Mistle Thrush – Resident
151. Cetti’s Warbler – Common resident
152. Blackcap – Common summer visitor, one wintered at Trowse 2010/11
153. Garden Warbler – Scarce summer visitor
154. Lesser Whitethroat – Scarce migrant. Sometimes breeds nearby, but not often seen at the CP itself.
155. Whitethroat – Common summer visitor and breeder
156. Grasshopper Warbler – Spring passage migrant, some stay the summer.  In recent years Thorpe Station Marsh has held up to three reeling birds.
157. Sedge Warbler – Summer visitor and breeder
158. Reed Warbler – Summer visitor
159. Marsh Warbler – One was seen at Whitlingham on 29th June 2009 and accepted by the County Rarities Committee (note this is included in the 2011 B&M Report).  A juvenile/1st-winter  was caught and ringed by the UEA Ringing Group in August 2011.
160. Chiffchaff – Common summer visitor from mid-March onwards. In recent years several have overwintered. A Siberian Chiffchaff was reported during the 2015/16 winter, but as far as I know not submitted to the county rarities committee for formal acceptance.
161. Willow Warbler – Common summer visitor from the end of March onwards.
162. Goldcrest – Previously fairly common, numbers reduced after recent cold winters.
163. Firecrest – Two seen at Whitlingham Lane on 17/11/96.  More recently two were reported in Whitlingham Woods 03/04/12. One seen and photographed at Thorpe in spring 2016.
164. Spotted Flycatcher – One seen in summer 2010 and 2011 near ruins of Trowse Newton Hall, and occasionally since then.
165. Long-tailed Tit – Common
166. Blue Tit – Common resident
167. Great Tit – Common resident
168. Coal Tit – Scarce resident
169. Willow Tit – Several old records, but probably not present at Whitlingham C.P for many years. I have heard that at least one bird was present near the sewage works until at least 2008, but haven’t heard this directly from anyone that saw it. Some records may have been ID’d using the no-longer accepted ID criteria of cap gloss and bib size, and therefore could refer to Marsh Tit.
170. Marsh Tit – Scarce resident.
171. Bearded Tit – Rare, several records, last on 07/12/03. One seen and photographed at Thorpe Marsh in 2017.
172. Nuthatch – Common resident. One came to feeders near the car park in winter 2010/11. Best seen in Trowse Woods, but also still present in Whitlingham Woods.
173. Treecreeper – Common resident
174. Jay – Common resident
175. Magpie – Common resident
176. Jackdaw – Common resident
177. Rook – Uncommon. Most likely to be seen around the sewage works and bypass
178. Carrion Crow – Common resident
179. Hooded Crow – One record (17/10/99)
180. Starling – Common, usually in flight
181. House Sparrow – Rare - no sightings for many years. Previously occasional birds seen along Whitlingham Lane probably wanderers from a small flock in Trowse, which may now be gone.  Just outside of the patch there is a flock at the Thorpe end of Bungalow Lane.
182. Chaffinch – Common resident
183. Brambling – Uncommon winter visitor, perhaps surprisingly so given that the species is regular at Strumpshaw.
184. Greenfinch – Formerly common, now occasional 
185. Goldfinch – Common resident
186. Siskin – Common winter visitor
187. Linnet – Occasional sightings, may be resident on private sewage farm land
188. Lesser Redpoll – Annual winter visitor in small flocks
189. Mealy Redpoll – Near annual winter visitor, often with Lesser Redpoll
190. Common Crossbill – Presumably occasionally flys over, one seen perched in 2017.
191. Bullfinch – Resident but can be hard to see. Some commute across the river to Carey’s Meadow.

192. Hawfinch - several seen during early mornign vis-mig sessions in 2017, part of a large nationwide passage.
193. Snow Bunting – One seen in flight over Thorpe Station Marshes (30/10/10)
194. Lapland Bunting – One seen in flight over Whitlingham C.P. (02/12/10)
195.. Yellowhammer – Uncommon, most records flyovers in late autumn. I haven’t seen one here so I would appreciate any sightings.
196. Reed Bunting – Summer visitor, may breed.
197. Black-and-white Warbler - One record from Whitlingham Lane, sadly before my time!

Total: 197

Escapes & Feral species
1. Black Swan – A single escaped bird has been seen regularly in recent years. 2009 saw a pair of Black Swans on the Great Broad, but breeding did not occur.
2. Lesser White-fronted Goose – A feral bird reported on 07/01/02.
3. Emperor Goose – An escape seen on 26th August 2001
4. “Chinese” Swan Goose – A now resident group of Chinese x Domestic Greylag geese can often be found around the slipway. There are a few records of pure birds, which probably refer to one of the hybrid-type birds that has a black beak.
5. Red-breasted Goose - A tame un-ringed bird was found on 8th January 2011 and remained the following day.
6. Ruddy Shelduck – One seen on the Great Broad then relocated further along the Yare (13/03/11). Two were seen later in 2011 at Thorpe Marsh, and another was photographed at Whitlingham in 2012.
7. Wood Duck – One seen at Whitlingham (09/10/97) and another on the river (in 2008?) at Trowse almost certainly crossed the patch boundary!
8. Chiloe Wigeon – One seen in January 2002 was clearly an escape from a collection
9. Baikal Teal - One (obviously an escape) was photographed in 2011, but was flushed by Coots and not seen subsequently
10. Night Heron - One seen on several dates in 2003 was deemed to have been from the then free-flying Great Witchingham population.


  1. Hi James, although I can't add anything to the bird list myself I can't see Red-rumped Swallow on your list. I seem to remember one was claimed and photographed at Whitlingham a couple of years ago. Don't know if the record was considered genuine or not. Look forward to the book. Cheers Steve Smith.

    1. Hi Steve. Thanks for that - I have woefully neglected this list, have just added on the Red-rumped Swallow. It was accepted by the county rarities committee, so good enough for me. I never saw a photo of it, but there could well be one kicking around somewhere, I think the finder has agreed to right up the sighting for us. Regards, James.