hylocichla mustelina

List of birds of Great Britain

The list of British birds comprises all those bird species which have occurred in a wild state in Great Britain. In general the avifauna of Britain is, of course, similar to that of Europe, although with fewer breeding species. There are 580 species of birds on the British list as of 16 July, 2008, with the latest addition Great Blue Heron (Ardea herodias). The species order and scientific names used here follow that of the Official British List, maintained by the British Ornithologists' Union (BOU). In a few cases, the English names used here differ from those adopted by the BOU, to reflect names in more widespread use among the British birding public.

Decisions relating to the British List are published by the British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee (BOURC) in its annual reports in Ibis, the journal of the BOU, and decisions relating to Northern Ireland and the Isle of Man are summarised in these reports.

The BOU uses the following categories for British bird species:

  • A Species which have been recorded in an apparently natural state at least once since January 1, 1950.
  • B Species which were recorded in an apparently natural state at least once up to December 31, 1949, but have not been recorded subsequently.
  • C Species that, although originally introduced by man, either deliberately or accidentally, have established breeding populations derived from introduced stock, that maintain themselves without necessary recourse to further introduction.
    • Categories A, B and C constitute the Official British List.
      • Note that birds can be listed in more than one category, e.g. Canada Goose, with a small number of naturally occurring birds (A), and also many introduced birds (C).
  • D Species that would otherwise appear in Categories A or B except that there is reasonable doubt that they have ever occurred in a natural state.
  • E Species that have been recorded as introductions, transportees or escapees from captivity, and whose breeding populations (if any) are thought not to be self sustaining.
    • Birds in Categories D and E are NOT on the Official British List (and are not included here).

Species listed as rare here are those for which records are assessed by the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC); claims of these species are not accepted unless documented by adequate field descriptions.

The British List has always been geographically rather than politically based. It was for most of its existence a British and Irish list, but is now simply the official list of birds of Great Britain as determined by the British Ornithologists' Union.

Birds records for Northern Ireland are kept by the Northern Ireland Birdwatchers’ Association and the Manx Ornithological Society (MOS) has responsibility for Isle of Man (which is not a legislative part of the UK).

Because of its mild winters, Great Britain has a considerable population of wintering species, particularly ducks, geese and swans. There are also a number of species, such as Oystercatcher, which are resident in this island, but migrants elsewhere. Also because of its position, Britain receives a number of vagrants from Asia and North America. Some American gulls, ducks and waders are regular enough not to be considered rare. These include Ring-billed Gull, Surf Scoter and Pectoral Sandpiper; 150 of the latter species were found in Britain in the record month of September 2003, with a further 40 in Ireland.

List of British birds









Some classifications also include the Falconidae.


Sometimes included in the Accipitriformes



Suborder Charadrii: waders

Suborder Lari: skuas, gulls & terns

Suborder Alcae: auks











The links above lead to family accounts and individual species. Taxonomy is very fluid in the age of DNA analysis, so other arrangements may be found, as in Sibley-Ahlquist taxonomy.

Species awaiting acceptance

The following species have been recorded recently and the British Ornithologists' Union Records Committee has not yet made a decision on whether to accept them onto the British List.

References and links

See also

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