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Raptors, Owls and near-Passerines

Updated: Mar 12

Osprey Pandion haliaetus [BoCC5: Amber]

Historically, this species was moderately common as a migrant in Cornwall, and it has been known since the early 17th century when Carew (1602) described it as a "sea-fowl not eatable". However, during this time, there is no specific mention of any birds on the Lizard. In the 20th century, coinciding with its fortunes in the UK as a whole, this species became rather rare in Cornwall, though there a few records from the records from the Lizard during this time.


Its status is best described as a rare but increasing spring and autumn migrant and all records are given (singles unless otherwise stated):


1953: 14th Apr 1953 (Loe Pool)

1959: 1st-3rd Sep (Helford)

1968: 29th Aug (Helford)

1979: 17th Mar (Goonhilly)

1981: 28th Jul-11th Aug (Loe Pool)

1987: 6th-20th May (Loe Pool)

1990: 9th Sep (Goonhilly)

1995: 15th-24th Oct (Helford)

1996: two on 1st Sep (Helford), 8th Sep (Kynance), 8th-9th Sep 1996 (Helford)

1997: 2nd May (Mullion), 17th May (Helston), 20th-22nd Sep (Loe Pool)

1998: 24th Sep (Goonhilly)

1999: 17th-18th May (Helford)

2000: 19th Sep & 22nd Oct (Helford)

2001: 4th Sep (Loe Pool)

2002: 10th Oct (Church Cove)

2003: 3rd Aug (Goonhilly)

2004: 26th Apr, 28th May, 9th Sep 2004 (all Caerthillian)

2005: 26th Sep (Lizard Point)

2007: 26th Aug (Helford)

2008: 11th Oct (Goonhilly)

2009: 1st May (Windmill Farm), 6th Sep (Loe Pool), 21st-22nd Sep (Helford)

2010: 19th Apr (Helston), 1st Sep 2010 (Lizard area)

2011: 22nd Apr (Kennack Sands)

2012: 29th Mar-1st Apr (Kennack Sands), 2nd Apr (St. Keverne)

2013: 6th Apr (Loe Pool), 8th Sep 2013 (Lizard Village), 22nd Oct (Mullion)

2014: 30th Sep (Kennack Sands), 30th Sep-12th Oct (Helford)

2015: 6th Apr (Poltesco), 28th Aug (Helford), 2nd Nov (Coverack)

2016: 16th Sep (Helford)

2017: 16th Apr (Goonhilly), 10th May (Housel Bay), 30th Sep (Lizard Downs)

2018: 25th-26th Aug (Helford), 3rd Sep (Bass Point), 27th Sep (Kynance),

2019: 26th Aug (Goonhilly), 5th Sep (Kynance), 19th Sep (Loe Pool), 6th Oct (Helford)

2020: 28th Mar (Godolphin Hill), 2nd-21st Sep (Helford), 13th Sep (Windmill Farm), 17th Sep (Windmill Farm). Two on 31st Aug (Helford).

2021: 8th Apr (Lizard Downs), 10th Apr (Windmill Farm), 11th Apr (Helford), 26th Jul-9th Aug (Loe Pool), 27th Aug (Lankidden), 30th Aug (Lizard Downs), 2 intermittently 9th Sep-3rd Oct (Loe Pool), 10th Sep (Porthleven), 13th Sep (Little Treliever), 11th Oct (Lizard Downs)

2022: 26th Apr (Cadgwith), 30th Apr (Helston), 4th Sep (Kynance), 14th Sep (Kynance)

2023: 8th Apr (Goonhilly), 17th May (Loe Pool / Porthleven), 12th Sep (Polwheveral Creek), 3rd Oct (Goonhilly).

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of Osprey on the Lizard Peninsula. A definite signs of an increase in records. Two distinct seasonal peaks evident, couniciding wiht migration, but the species appears to be more common in Autumn.


Though widespread across Europe, historically this species was rare in Cornwall, with rather few documented records before the 1980s. Aside from a implausible record of one on Predannack Downs on 11th Dec 1949, the first record for the Lizard is of a single seen at Kennack Sands on 17th May 1987. Subsequently this species was seen at Mullion on 20th May 1990, Lizard Downs on 22nd Sep 1997, Church Cove on 28th Sep 1997 and at both Lizard Point and Kynance on 20th-25th Sep 1999.


In 2000, coinciding with a huge influx into the UK, there were sightings involving two birds from Church Cove on 1st & 2nd Oct 2000 and at St Keverne on 4th Oct.


Subsequent records are as follows:

2001: 28th Jul (Goonhilly)

2002: 13th Sep (Caerthillian)

2008: 27th Apr (Loe Pool), 1st-15th Jun (Croft Pascoe), 18th Sep (Lizard Point)

2011: 12th May (Helston)

2017: 26th Aug (Caerthillian)

2020: 14th Sep (Coverack)

2021: 11th Sep (Mullion)

2023: 28th May (Coverack), 3rd Sep (Coverack), 9th Oct (Soapy Cove)


Golden Eagle Aquila chrysaetos

The breeding range of this species 17th century extended as far south as Derbyshire and Snowdonia and there are several Cornish records that date back to that period. The only genuine record of one on the Lizard is of a bird that took up residence in the Trelowarren Estate in 1859, which characteristic of the time-period, evaded being shot at several times. The one seen in Croft Pascoe Woods on 4th-5th May 2010 had signs of wing jesses and was therefore almost certainly an escape.


Sparrowhawk Accipiter nisus [BoCC5: Amber]

Historically, in the 19th century, this species was moderately common in Cornwall, and although more frequent in the east of the country has probably bred in suitable woodlands around the Helford since antiquity. Numbers are currently increasing it is now a fairly common breeder on the north of the Lizard. In 2023 a pair bred in Caerthillian. Numbers increase in Autumn with the arrival of migrants during which time it becomes quite common on the south Lizard.

A migrant sparrowhawk near most Southerly Point, 16th Sep 2023. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Sparrowhawk on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


Goshawk Accipiter gentilis

The first record for Cornwall dates from 1838, prior to the species becoming almost extirpated from the UK at the end of the 19th century. In the early 20th century the species was extremely rare in the region, most often recorded on the Isles of Scilly, and at least one of these records was of the American race atricapillus.


Deliberate and accidental reintroductions have seen the population slowly recover in the UK, and the first record for the 'Lizard area' was during this period of a recovery: one just north of Helston on 2nd Oct 1976. Other records are as follows:


1984: 27th Aug (Kynance).

1988: 24th Aug (Hayle Kimbro).

1989: 29th Aug (Kynance).

1993: 23rd Sep (Mullion).

1994: 6th Apr (Mullion)

1995: 14th May (Predannack Airfield)

(2010: 9th Apr (Constantine))

2012: 13th Sep (Kynance)

2015: possible 21st Jan (Predannack)

2021: 15th Dec (Trewillis, Coverack)

2023: 16th Apr (dead near Gwendreath)


Marsh Harrier Circus aeruginosus [BoCC5: Amber]

Though historically widespread in England, the closest breeding pairs of this species were probably in Devon. By the 1970s it was extirpated from much of its former range and was, the UK, reduced to handful of pairs, notably at Minsmere.


Nevertheless, it was first recorded on the Lizard in 1940s, when a juvenile was seen at Penrose on 9th Oct 1948 and 26th Nov 1949-14th Jan 1950. Then a 12 year gap ensued until one was recorded just north of Lizard Village at Mount Hermon on 15th Sep 1962. Another was seen crossing Goonhilly and Kennack Sands on 20th Oct 1963. Then a further 14 year gap ensued until one was seen flying in off the sea on 17th Sep 1977 and two were seen at Predannack on the same day. Two further 5 year gaps ensued until one was recorded on 10th Apr 1982, and then another at Gunwalloe on 26th May 1987.


At the end of 1987, one was found at Goonhilly on 25th Dec, which took up residence for a while and was also seen at Gunwalloe and Poldhu until 13th Mar 1988. A different female was then seen at Gunwalloe on 22nd Apr 1988. There were then two further records from Gunwalloe, on 2nd Jan 1990 and 4th Apr 1990. Thereafter one or two have over-wintered in the Lizard area in most years, with additional birds sometimes arriving in spring. It is undoubtedly a good candidate for future breeding and is now the most common harrier on the Lizard.


Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus [BoCC5: Red]

In the early 19th century this species was quite widespread as a breeder in the UK, and on the Lizard it may possibly have bred in the 1800s, with Hill (1863) stating that the Hen Harrier was “rather rare, occasionally breeding on the borders of Goonhilly Downs”. Despite the fact that Hen Harriers were recorded in June at this time, it is generally thought that Hill was mistaken and that the breeding birds reported to him were in fact Montagu's Harriers, which regularly bred in the area.


From the 1890's until the 1950's records of Hen Harriers in Cornwall as a whole were sparse with only one documented record from the Lizard (over Kynance Downs on 15th Oct 1940), This coincided with a severe decline in the species' status nationally owing mainly to persecution on Grouse Moors. By the 1960s, however, coinciding with an upturn in numbers nationally, regular wintering occurred on Lizard Downs. It is now best described as a regular winter resident and passage migrant.


A pair successfully fledged three young at Goonhilly in 2002.


Northern Harrier Circus hudsonius

Rare wiht just one record: a juv male recorded on Goonhilly Downs and later on Lizard Downs between 28th Sep - 14th Oct 2023 (E O'Connor).


The Nothern Harrier in front of Goonhilly Earth Station. Dougy Wright


Pallid Harrier Circus macrourus [IUCN: NT]

A bird recorded between Bray's Cot and Gwenter on 25th Oct 2011 (S Bury), was seen again at Trethvas Farm on 15th Nov (I Maclean, A Pay, D Wright). A possible ringtail was seen at Poldhu on 26th May 2012. One was also watched going north over Lizard Village on 4th Nov 2021 (J Foster). One found on 21st Sep 2022 (R Evershed) wasn't initially identified with certainty. Fortunately it was seen and photographed (S Bury) a few days later and identification confirmed. Another seen on 5th May 2023 on Goonhilly also provided a little tricky to identify initially (J Foster), but good enough views to confirm identity were eventually obtained.


Coinciding with the westward expansion of this species across Europe, it is becoming increasingly common in Cornwall. Sightings of slimish looking harriers, of which there have been several recently, are almost as likely to be of this species as the next one.


Montagu's Harrier Circus pygargus [BoCC5: Red]

In the 19th century this species was regarded as the most common harrier in Cornwall, and it probably remained so on the Lizard Peninsula until the late 1970s. It bred fairly regularly in the Goonhilly area between 1842 and 1892 and was photographed with young at Trelan, St. Kevern in either 1911 or 1912 (see below)/ It was also recorded as breeding in in 1968-72 BTO Atlas period.


Post-1980, the species became much scarcer and at some point stopped breeding, though the situation is confused by the fairly regular occurrence of migrants during the breeding season. Records from this time include singles seen on 27th May 1982, 16th Apr-12th May 1985, 5th-10th May & 26th Sep 1987, 5th-15th May 1988, 22nd May 1990, 1st Jun 1990, 7th May 1994, 11th-29th May 1994 (a different bird), 17th Sep 1994, 8th May 1995, 18th-19th May 1998 and 24th-25th Apr 1999.


Post-2000, records occurred with similar frequency, though this coincides with a substantial increase in observer coverage, suggesting that in reality the species is in decline. Nonetheless, singles were seen on 13th May 2000, 31st May-4th Jun 2002, 6th-10th May 2003, 14th Jun 2003, 9th Aug 2004, 14th-30th May 2006, 6th-23rd May 2008 1st Jun, 2008 and 30th Sep 2009.


In the last two decadess, the species has been recorded less frequently, with records of singles as follows:


2011: 16th-19th Apr

2014: 23rd-29th Apr

2020: 10th, 15th & 20th May

2021: 14th, 28th & 29th May

2023: 14th Apr-10th May, 2nd May


All of these records are from the Goonhilly or Lizard Downs areas, the only other sighting being of a ringtail at Constantine on 10th May 2020 (possibly the same as the Lizard Downs bird) and of one at Carminowe on 2nd May 2023.


Montagu's Harrier, Lizard Downs Apr 2023. Dougy Wright.

Montagu's Harrier flying past Goonhilly Earth Station, 24th Apr 2014

A young Montagu's Harrier at Trelan, St. Kevern in either 1911 or 1912. Reproduced from Penhallurick (1978).


Red Kite Milvus milvus

In the 1800s, this species bred annually in large woodlands in Cornwall, Nevertheless, records of this species breeding on the Lizard during this time are somewhat questionable, though supported in part by a records of a pair being shot at Trelowarren in Nov 1809. A pair was also seen at Mullion Golf Course in late Mar 1952. Numbers have steadily increased coinciding with the upturn in fortune of this species nationally and it is now a common site during the annual influx to Cornwall in spring. The highest count is of an astonishing 230 on 10th May 2020, which would have been utterly inconceivable a few decades ago.

Red Kite 14th May 2018. Tony Blunden


Red Kites over Lizard Downs during the May influx. Ilya Maclean


Black Kite Milvus migrans

Though widespread across Europe, this species was historically rare in Cornwall, with just a handful of records up to the late 1970s. It remains rare on the Lizard, though appears to be increasing with just 2-3 records prior to 2000, but at least 17 since then. All records are given (all singles):


1989: 24th May (Kyance and Soapy Cove area), 7th June (Hayle Kimbro).

1991: 28th Apr (Lizard Downs).

2003: 18th Apr (Predannack), 2nd Jun (Croft Pascoe), 3rd-5th Sep (Lizard Downs),

2004: 21st Apr (Predannack).

2009: 13th Sep (Helston).

2010: 27th May (Lloyd’s Lane).

2011: 23rd-25th Apr 2011 (Croft Pascoe, Cadgwith & Lizard Village), 27th Aug-3rd Sep (OLd Lizard Head).

2012: 2nd May (St. Keverne).

2013: 2nd May (Crousa Downs), 9th Jul (Lizard Village) .

2014: 16th May 2014 (Lizard Point), 20th-23rd Sep (Kynance & Lizard Point).

2017: 16th Apr (Goonhilly), 28th May 2017 (probable Mullion).

2018: 19th May 2018 (Windmill Farm), 16th Aug 2018 (Helston), 22nd Aug (Lizard Village).

2020: 11th May (Crousa Downs).

2023: 21st May (Lizard Downs).

Distant record shot of the Black Kite over Lloyd's Lane in 2010. Tony Blunden


White-tailed Eagle Haliaeetus albicilla [BoCC5: Amber]

This species was much more widespread across southern England during the 19th century, though never bred in Cornwall. Nevertheless there are a handful of Cornish records during this period. The first sighting of one on the Lizard, however, was of a reintroduced bird from the Isle of White, which was seen near Kynance on 13th Oct 2020, and in 2021: over Goonhilly on 31st Mar, at the Helford for a few days in Apr, Caerthillian on 7th May and Lloyd's Lane on 10th Jun. A bird, presumably of Isle of White origin was again seen on 21st March 2022 at Beagle's Point and south over Rosemullion Head on 3rd Mar 2023.


Rough-legged Buzzard Buteo lagopus

This species has always been rare winter visitor in Cornwall, and there are only three documented records prior to 1900. In the 20th century, likely a product of increased observer coverage rather than an upturn in the population, records occurred with greater frequency.


On the Lizard it is a rare species, though there are several older records: two near Coverack on 8th Apr 1939 and three near Mawgan in early Dec 1950, which remained until Apr 1951. Another first seen at Porthleven on 10th Jan 1951 spent two months in Penrose before frequenting the Cury and Poldhu areas. A single was again seen at Penrose and Mawgan on 28th Dec 1951.


It has undoubtedly declined since then, perhaps owing to warmer winters and the only recent records are of one reported over Penrose on 8th Dec 2008 and one at Goonhilly on 15th Apr 2012.


Buzzard Buteo buteo

This species has almost certainly occurred in Cornwall since antiquity and there are several Cornish and dialect names for this species. In the 19th century it was quite heavily persecuted by gamekeepers, and most likely numbers varied spatially and temporally in response to this. During the second world war years numbers almost certainly increased in Cornwall, but plummeted quite drastically in response to the myxomatosis outbreaks in the 1950s. Elsewhere in the UK it was also adversely affected by the use of DDT and other pesticides throughout the 1950’s and 60’s, which caused egg thinning resulting in clutch failure. Whether this adversely affected the population in Cornwall, which during this time was a strong-hold for the species, is less certain.


Numbers have undoubtedly increased in Cornwall as a whole and on the Lizard since the 1950s, though there is also some evidence of a recent decline. Nonetheless, it remains a fairly common breeding resident

Buzzard, Penrose, Jan 2021. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Buzzard on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


(Long-legged Buzzard Buteo rufenis)

One was reported on several occasions from the Predannack area in late May 2022, but was though by the regular Lizard birders to be an slightly unusual looking Common Buzzard that had been frequenting the area for quite some time.


Barn Owl Tyto alba

19th century ornithologists in Cornwall regarded the Barn Owl as common and during this period it was probably the most common owl species on farmed areas of the Lizard.


Though Barn Owls are generally sedentary, a remarkable influx occurred during 1950. On 14th January, four were quartering the wooded pasture area at Penrose, and a month later as many as 12 were seen together. Though this sheltered site is still a favoured haunt of this species during windy weather, such a high density could not be sustained, and five were later found dead, with local estate managers describing them as "lighter than their own feathers". These owls, and a few seen subsequently varied in colour with several resembling the dark-form guttata, pointing to a possible continental origin.


It has undoubtedly declined recently, primarily in response to modernisation of farming and loss of nest sites. It is currently a scarce breeding resident.

Barn Owl, 12th Sep 206. Tony Blunden

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Barn Owl on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


(Scops Owl Otus scops)

Just outside the Lizard area, a bird thought by the observer to be this species was watched for several minutes on the south-east slope of Tregonning Hill on 16th Sep 1952. However, the description, particularly of the call, is not at all convincing and unsurprisingly it was not accepted by the BBRC.


Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus [IUCN: VU]

This species is a sporadic visitor from the Arctic to Cornwall, though whether birds are of Neoarctic or Palearctic origin is not known with certainty. The bird frequenting Zennor, which wandered periodically, was seen at Goonhilly Downs on 3rd Feb 2009.


Tawny Owl Strix aluco [BoCC5: Amber]

This species has been known from Cornwall since antiquity as its association with death is well-documented in folklore. There is little evidence of a substantial change in status. It is strongly associated with wooded areas and is thus most commonly seen or heard around Loe Pool and the Helford. However, it is also found on the south Lizard, most notably from Church Cove and Poltesco and has bred at both sites.




Recently-fledged Tawny Owls. Top: Tony Blunden, Middle (at Poltesco): Ilya Maclean and bottom (near Gweek in 1981): Steve Bury.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Tawny Owl on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


Little Owl Athene noctua

This species was introduced to the UK in the late 19th century and had established itself in Cornwall by the 1920s. More generally across the UK there are a number of records that pre-date the introduction though many of these probably relate to escaped cagebirds. Nevertheless, early records from the Lizard area are generally thought to be of genuine vagrants: a bird shot near Constantine in Nov 1828 and another at St Keverne in 1830.


Post introduction, pairs took up residence around Church Cove and around Kynance and Mullion, and held on up until the mid-1980s (the first report being from Prednannack in 1968). The last record from the Lizard is of one at Mullion in Dec 1992.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Little Owl on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


Long-eared Owl Asio otus

In Cornwall, this species occasionally breeds in the east of the country, though historically it was potentially more widespread. Though predominantly a winter visitor, even in the 19th century, several records from the north Helford area in in 1865 point to possible breeding.


More recently the only records are of singles at Kynance on 11th Oct 1978, Hayle Kimbro on 26th Oct 1996, dead at Degibna, Loe Pool on 16th Mar 1997, Church Cove on 18th Aug 1999 and Bass Point on 18th Oct 2005. One was also trapped and ringed in the Lizard area on 8th Nov 1998 (location unspecified) and an owl flushed from Caerthillian, but only seen very briefly on 16th Oct 2022 was most likely this species.


Short-eared Owl Asio flammeus [BoCC5: Amber]

In Cornwall, this species is predominantly a winter visitor and migrant, though in the late 1930s and 1940s breeding was suspected and then later confirmed at Wilsey Downs near Davidstow.


No further records of birds during the height of the breeding season where subsequently reported until 1963, when a pair was watched at Trethvas on the Lizard, barking and displaying in early June (though there is no evidence that they remained longer in an attempt to breed). It is currently a scarce migrant and winter visitor usually seen on the heaths. It is most commonly in October when individuals can also be found more widely.

Short-eared Owl hunting at Dusk, 24th Oct 2015. Tony Blunden

Short-eared Owl 14th January 2018. Tony Blunden


Hoopoe Upupa epops [BoCC5: Extinct]

Historically, this species bred in Cornwall, though its true status as a breeder is obscured by the frequency with which migrants are seen. Nevertheless, between the 1890s and 1960s, there were breeding records from Land'd End, St Column Major, Lamorna and Tregony, though there is no confirmed evidence of breeding of birds on the Lizard. Nevertheless, there are a few records of singing birds in spring and quite a number of summer records, including:


1976: Jul-Aug (Cadgwith).

1982: 25th Jul (Cadgwith).

2009: 2nd Aug (Windmill Farm).

2012: 12th Aug (Manaccan).

2020: 22nd-26th Aug (Coverack).

2020: 26th Aug 2020 (Housel).


Some of these may refer to early autumn migrants, as the species is also recorded sporadically in autumn, with dates as follows:


1948: 27th Sep-3rd Oct.

1951: 16th Sep 1951.

1967: 2nd & 30th Sep.

1979: 8th & 24th-30th Sep.

1980: 29th Sep-2nd Oct.

1982: 6th & 8th Oct.

1988: 12th Oct.

1990: late Sep-10th Oct.

2000: 28th Sep.

2004: 27th Sep.

2010: 1st Sep 2010.

2015: 15th Oct.

2017: 1st Nov 2017.

2021: 18th Sep 2021.

2023: 7th Sep, 18th Sep, 9th Oct, 14th Oct


A bird seen at Gunwalloe and Mullion Golf Course on 2nd-11th Nov 1988 is the latest.


It is most common as a spring migrant, and individual records are too numerous to document, though at least one or two as seen in most years. The earliest date is of one on 4th Mar (1952).


The top areas for this species are: Lizard Village (17), Manaccan area (11) and Gunwalloe/Poldhu (10).

Hoopoe, Housel Bay, 5th Apr 2021. Joe Jones.

Another Hoopoe at Housel. This one on 5th Jun 2021. Dave Collins


Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Hoopoe on the Lizard Peninsula.


Roller Coracias garrulus

In the UK, this species more commonly occurs as a vagrant to the south-east, but it was evidently more common historically as there are quite a few Cornish records from the 19th century.


There are just two records for the Lizard area, more than 200 years apart. The first was of one shot near Helston in the autumn of 1785. The second was a 1st-summer at Lizard Downs on 27th May-8th Jun 1992, which caused a degree of consternation among Lizard birders at the time, being seen by some but not others.

Kingfisher Alcedo atthis

Historically, this species has never been very common in Cornwall, though there is no particular evidence of a marked change in status. On the Lizard it is a breeding resident around the Helford and Loe Pool, but is surprisingly rare on the south of the Lizard. The only records I am aware of are:


1985: 10th Sep (Soap Cove)

2015: 7th Sep (Housel Bay)and 31st Dec (Poltesco).

2023: 22nd Oct (Windmill Farm)

Kingfisher at Loe Pool. Ilya Maclean


Blue-cheeked Bee-eater Merops persicus

One at Kennack Sands and Cadgwith on 1st Jun 1989 was the first for mainland Cornwall and only the fifth for Britain and Ireland. Along with Brown Booby and Red-billed Tropicbird, one of the famous Lizard rarities.


Bee-eater Merops apiaster

This species was astonishingly rare in Cornwall historically, with only 7 records for the period 1807-1974 (though some of these involved multiple birds). The earliest record from the Lizard area is of a flock of 12, eleven of which were shot, near Helston in May 1828 (reported in the West Briton). Thereafter, more than 150 years elapsed until two were seen at Ruan Minor on 28th May 1981. Then just handful of further sightings to the 1990s, with one in the Lizard area on 20th May 1986 and two at Kennack Sands on 4th Jun 1989.


Then there was a further 16 year gap until 4 were at Church Cove on 6th May 2005. Records have become far more regular since then with 1 at Housel Bay on 21st May 2007, 3 at Predannack and Lizard Downs on 3rd May 2008, 1 at Coverack on 4th Jun 2008, 1 over Lizard Village on 4th May 2010 & 2 over on 23rd May 2010.


Perhaps as a result of the northward extension of the breeding range of this species in continental Europe, in the last decade, the species as become much more common:


2011: in Apr singles at Windmill Farm on the 3rd and Kynance on the 7th, 2 at Kennack Sands on the 11th and 1 at Coverack on the 24th. Also one at Lizard Point on 1st Jun and 3 at Constantine on 13th Jun.

2012, 2+ over Caerthillian on 7th Apr, 2+ over Lizard Village on 20th May.

2015: 4 at Mawgan on 5th Jun

2016: 1 at Little Treleaver on 10th May

2017: 1 at Poldhu on 17th May,

2018: 1 at Goonhilly on 7th & 23rd May and 4th Jun, 1+ at Old Lizard on 18th May.

2019: 1 at Lizard Point on 10th May, 1+ at Lizard Village on 18th May, 1 at Constantine on 25th May, 1 at Cadgwith on 27th May 2019

2020: 1 over Porthleven on 10th May.

2021: singles at Windmill Farm 10th Apr, Lizard Village 24th Apr, Lowland Point 30th May and Gunwalloe 22nd Jul.

2023: a single at Crousa Downs on 17th Jun

The April 2011 Bee-eater. Tony Blunden.


Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Bee-eater on the Lizard Peninsula.


Wryneck Jynx torquilla [BoCC5: Extinct]

Historically, in the 19th century, this species probably bred in Cornwall. The localities at which it was noted were primarily near the edge of the moors in places with large trees. However, even at that time it was primarily known as an autumn migrant, though was still remarkably rare.


On the Lizard calling birds were heard in Mar 1948 and 1949 at Ruan Minor and in mid-Jul 1948 at Manaccan, implying possible breeding at a time when the species was rare as a migrant, particularly in spring. The only other early records is of one at Housel Bay on 16th Sep 1956.


More recently, it has become much more common, though in spring it still remains scarce. Spring records are mostly from Caerthillian with singles recorded on 10th May 2001, 15th & 27th Apr 2003, 15th Apr 2004, 23rd Apr 2017, 23-25th Mar 2019 and 16th Apr 2019. Additional spring birds include singles seen at Goonhilly on 29th Apr 1990, Lizard Village on 3rd-8th Apr 1997, Lizard Point on 15th Apr 2003 and Bass Point on 18th May 2019. Several were also recorded in Lizard area in Apr 2015 during a large spring influx to Cornwall, though dates and locations are unspecified.


Records of migrants have increased substantially, and autumn records are too numerous to document, but the latest sighting is 10th Nov (2001).

Seasonal trends (left) and 5-year totals (right) of initial sightings of Wryneck on the Lizard Peninsula.

Wryneck, 29th Aug 2016. Tony Blunden


Great Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos major

In the 19th century, this species was exceptionally rare in west Cornwall. It probably colonising the Helford area around the early 1900s, where it remained on par with Lesser Spotted Woodpecker in terms of rarity right up until the 1940s. Away from the Helford and Loe Pool areas it remained rare until 1988. Numbers are steady increasing and it is now commonly seen even in sparsely wooded areas on the south of the Lizard, often on telegraph poles.


For the most part, the British race is sedentary and the fairly frequent records of birds at unusual locations are probably mostly wandering local birds. Nevertheless, birds of continental origin probably do occur.

A Great Spotted Woodpecker near Kennack Sands, Nov 2020. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Great Spotted Woodpecker on the Lizard. Medium-sized squares indicate probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


Lesser Spotted Woodpecker Dendrocopos minor [BoCC5: Red]

Historically much more common across Cornwall and in the late 19th century, more common than Great Spotted Woodpecker. In the Lizard area, reported from from Ruan in the 1890s and regularly from the Helford area in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s and sporadically prior to that. One was also seen Ruan Minor 28th Jan 1962.


Also recorded periodically from the Penrose area from the 1930s up until at least 1982, though one was also seen there on 14th Feb 1999. More recent records are mostly from just outside the Lizard area with singles seen at Breage on 14th-15th Oct 1985 and Constantine on 24th Feb 1993 and 20th Mar 1994. The only recent records are of one at the Gweek Seal Sanctuary on 10th Jun 2012 and at Loe Pool 27th Nov 2019. Is this species still clinging on in very small numbers in the wooded valleys?


Green Woodpecker Picus viridis

This species has been known from west Cornwall since antiquity and was probably more common when wooded pasture with an abundance of mature trees was more of a feature of the farmed landscape. It remains a scarce breeder in the north Lizard area and is an occasional visitor to south Lizard.

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Green Woodpecker on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding, medium-sized squares probable breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


Kestrel Falco tinnunculus [BoCC5: Amber]

This species is a common resident breeder and has been known from west Cornwall at least since Carew (1602) documented it as being among the seabirds of the region owing to its habitat of associating with coastal cliffs.


Kestrel, Porthleven, December 2023. Ilya Maclean

Historic (1982) breeding distribution of Kestrel on the Lizard. Large squares indicate confirmed breeding and small squares present in the breeding season and possibly breeding.


Red-footed Falcon Falco vespertinus [IUCN: NT]

This species was historically rare in the region and remains so, with no evidence of a marked change in status. In the Lizard area, there just 14 records, the first being of one shot near Nansloe in 1867.


Subsequent sightings are all of live birds (all singles), mostly from Goonhilly, where recorded on 18th-26th May 1980, 12th-23rd May 1988, 4th-5th Jun 1989, 27th-28th May 1990, 21st Jun 1992, 3rd-24th June 2001, 8th Oct 2001, 20th May 2008, 30th Aug 2021 and 6th May 2023.


Elsewhere, sightings of singles are from Coverack on 10th Sep-4th Nov 1981 (also seen at Church Cove), Lizard Downs & Cadgwith 13th Jun 1992, St. Keverne on 17th-21st May 2011, Bass Point on 5th May 2016, Lizard Village on 23rd Apr 2017 and from Lizard Downs on 29th May–25th Jun 2017 and a possible over Lizard Point on 3rd Oct 2023.

Red-footed Falcon at Hayle Kimbro, 4th Jun 2017. Tony Blunden


Merlin Falco columbarius [BoCC5: Red]

Though this species historically bred on Dartmoor, and small numbers still breed on Exmoor, the only known Cornish breeding record is from Perrenporth in the 1950s. In the Lizard area, as elsewhere in Cornwall it is scarce migrant and winter visitor. Extreme dates are 31st Aug (1994) and 14th May (2008).

Merlin, Predannack Airfield, 24th Oct 2015. Tony Blunden

Merlin, Predannack Airfield. Ilya Maclean


Hobby Falco subbuteo

In Cornwall as a whole, though undoubtedly overlooked, the species is quite rare as a breeder, and the majority of records relate to migrant birds. The same is true on the Lizard, where it is best described as a scarce migrant, though it has bred successfully on the Lizard heathlands on at least one occasion. Extreme dates for the species are 29th Mar (2012) and 31st Oct (2014).

Hobby 12th June 2009. Tony Blunden


Gyr Falcon Falco rusticolus

The status of this species is somewhat confused by the likely occurrence of birds of falconry origin, though the prevalence of records in Cornwall as a whole points to genuine vagrancy.


Most records on the Lizard date from the 19th century: singles shot at Gwavas farm and at an unspecified location on 24th Mar 1884. There is also a record from Goonhilly ~1850. The only recent record is of one seen at Traboe Cross on 3rd Mar 2000.


Peregrine Falco peregrinus

The historic status of this species as breeder is particularly well-documented from the north coast of Cornwall, though it also occurred in the Lizard area, where it was documented from Trewarvas in 1853 and Halzephron in 1863. It is now a scarce breeding resident, with numbers probably supplemented by migrants and winter visitors.


(Saker Falco cherrug) [IUCN: EN]

An injured male, presumably an escape, was found at Higher Treglidgwith, Constantine and was then taken to Culdrose on 20th Jan 1978. A possible was seen at Little Treliever on 16th Jul 2017. With genuine vagrants occurring in many countries around the UK are any genuine vagrants being dismissed as escapes?

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