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Rarest bird you have seen in the UK? (1 Viewer)

Ev4dawin

Well-known member
United Kingdom
I'm not sure if a thread like this exists, I have seen the other threads but I believe they are worldwide rather than in the UK, so my apologies if I reposted a thread that already existed. Anyways, what is the rarest bird that you have seen in the UK? Mine would probably be a Chough which was sited by me in Wales. Another close competitor was a few gannets in the same location as the chough. It was certainly a really good day. I'll have to find some images later as well.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I'm not sure if a thread like this exists, I have seen the other threads but I believe they are worldwide rather than in the UK, so my apologies if I reposted a thread that already existed. Anyways, what is the rarest bird that you have seen in the UK? Mine would probably be a Chough which was sited by me in Wales. Another close competitor was a few gannets in the same location as the chough. It was certainly a really good day. I'll have to find some images later as well.
I could have answered that unequivocally until they binned the Slender-billed Curlew.

I have no idea what it would be now, Yellow-breasted Bunting is in major decline across it's range so maybe a contender?
 

foresttwitcher

Virtually unknown member
United Kingdom
It rather depends upon whether you mean the rarest UK bird that you have seen or the rarest bird worldwide that you have seen in the UK? :)
 

foresttwitcher

Virtually unknown member
United Kingdom
Andy, just being a bit flippant really! I was referring to the OP's examples of Chough & Gannet - both UK breeding birds and not 'rare' globally. Compared with what you then came up with - a couple of great birds that are rare worldwide which you have been fortunate enough to see in the UK. My first thoughts for ones I have seen were Oriental Pratincole and Buff-bellied Pipit, both of which would have been considered very rare vagrants when I saw them in the UK but are numerous worldwide. So as you point out it will change with time & definition.
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I think we are dealing with poor understanding of "rare" here. Rare in the UK would presumably mean rarity down to firsts for Britain (and maybe how rare birds persist in being: Red-flanked Bluetail has lost its mega status but remains a good deal less common than Chough!) whereas Andy has gone for the rare world-wide nonetheless turning up in Britain option, or as it appears, not turning up.

Pacific Diver
Double-crested Cormorant
Dalmatian Pelican
Chinese Pond Heron
Snowy Egret
Redhead
Canvasback
American Coot
Western Purple Swamphen
Least Tern
Ancient Murrelet
Long-billed Murrelet
Alder Flycatcher
Acadian Flycatcher
Black Lark
Tree Swallow
Purple Martin
Paddyfield Pipit
Cedar Waxwing
Spectacled Warbler
Eastern Crowned Warbler
Asian Brown Flycatcher
Red-breasted Nuthatch
Masked Shrike
Yellow-throated Vireo
Philadelphia Vireo
Golden-winged Warbler
Indigo Bunting

The list above is all birds that were firsts for Britain when I saw them: in a couple of cases earlier records have been reassessed or even belatedly come to light, such as the Black Lark male that a Spurn birder failed to identify despite notes extensive enough to have it accepted years later.... It's interesting to look at which have recurred and which haven't.

However, I suspect that by Andy's measure I should include perhaps Sociable Plover and/or Great Snipe, of both of which I've seen more than one in Britain?

John
 

Swindon Addick

Registered User
Supporter
Wales
Depending exactly how you interpret the question, you'll get the same answer from a lot of people. If it's the bird with the smallest current UK breeding population, which I think was the spirit of the question, there are a lot of us who've seen (or heard, in my case) Lady Amherst's Pheasant, which is now extinct in the UK so would be kind of hard to beat. In terms of the bird that's been seen here least frequently, there will be a lot of people on here who've twitched something that's only been seen here once or twice. I suspect there's quite a few who aren't dedicated twitchers who'll give the same answer as me - Black-browed Albatross has had less than 40 individuals seen in the UK in the whole of history, but one of them spent a summer in an accessible location and there must be thousands of people who saw it.

Out of interest, what's the rarest bird (in the sense of global population) that's been seen in the UK recently?
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
Andy, just being a bit flippant really! I was referring to the OP's examples of Chough & Gannet - both UK breeding birds and not 'rare' globally. Compared with what you then came up with - a couple of great birds that are rare worldwide which you have been fortunate enough to see in the UK. My first thoughts for ones I have seen were Oriental Pratincole and Buff-bellied Pipit, both of which would have been considered very rare vagrants when I saw them in the UK but are numerous worldwide. So as you point out it will change with time & definition.
This was my point Pete, there are plenty of birds which are not breeders but occur in large numbers in winter.
 

Welsh Peregrine

Well-known member
Hmm! Rarest as in number of times seen in UK would include Ancient Murrelet and Golden-winged Warbler, both single individuals (although the Murrelet returned for a couple of years). Rarest globally in UK - Aquatic Warbler or Balearic Shearwater, both globally endangered? Or, to be totally contentious, Scottish Crossbill? By subspecies, Shetland Starling? (Not seen the 2 very scarce wrens)
 

aeshna5

Well-known member
Not sure Gannet could be called rare under any definition as Bass Rock has the world's largest Northern Gannet population & the UK has a population in excess of 290,000 birds & over half the world population.
 

Ev4dawin

Well-known member
United Kingdom
Not sure Gannet could be called rare under any definition as Bass Rock has the world's largest Northern Gannet population & the UK has a population in excess of 290,000 birds & over half the world population.
I know that gannets aren't rare, but for a beginner birder like me, who hasn't seen a wide variety of birds like most of the people here have, that's what I consider rare, because those were the only ones I've seen as a beginner birder. And I just want to clarify that I was asking about what birds occur in the UK that are considered "rare" but that's my fault for not making that clearer.
 

Andy Adcock

Well-known member
England
I know that gannets aren't rare, but for a beginner birder like me, who hasn't seen a wide variety of birds like most of the people here have, that's what I consider rare, because those were the only ones I've seen as a beginner birder. And I just want to clarify that I was asking about what birds occur in the UK that are considered "rare" but that's my fault for not making that clearer.
That still isn't clear, do you mean resident breeders and regular winter visitors or are you including vagrants as they all 'occur' in the UK?
 

Farnboro John

Well-known member
I know that gannets aren't rare, but for a beginner birder like me, who hasn't seen a wide variety of birds like most of the people here have, that's what I consider rare, because those were the only ones I've seen as a beginner birder. And I just want to clarify that I was asking about what birds occur in the UK that are considered "rare" but that's my fault for not making that clearer.
Well, of the resident birds, apart from failing introduced pheasants and suchlike, naturally scarce (but perhaps near the carrying capacity of their current UK range) would be things like Golden Eagle. One of the rarest birds of prey would be the heavily illegally persecuted Hen Harrier, but that remains more numerous than the edge of range Montagu's Harrier. Some wetland birds like Bittern are nowhere near as common as they should be but are recovering in the recent absence of persecution.

Chough might fall within a definition like "birds that occur in the UK that are considered "rare"", but Gannets can't be considered rare under any reasonable definition, however few you have seen. They are a common UK seabird that is difficult to miss on a short seawatch on any part of the coast at almost any time of the year.

Reading some of the species related threads under Conservation on here may help you discover which are the scarcer birds of Britain. There are quite a lot that are in real trouble - modern intensive farming has caused local to regional extinctions of birds such as Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow, Grey Partridge, and some woodland species are also quite likely on the way out due to habitat fragmentation: Willow Tit, seemingly also Marsh Tit, and Lesser Spotted Woodpecker have all crashed lately with recovery apparently unlikely. Summer visiting Turtle Doves are quite simply being shot out of existence on migration (as a birder it's often difficult to love our fellow humans!)

There is plenty of material on the internet generally, too: conservation organisations like the county trusts and RSPB will have details and even wikipedia entries for countries and species often contain details on distribution and population. Finally nature programmes from David Attenborough epics to Springwatch and its seasonal sisters abound with such information as part of their intent to bring conservation issues to the public.

So you are tapping into a hobby where the information you want is available in vast quantities. I hope getting rather more than you bargained for on here - and not quite in the form you perhaps expected, including from me - doesn't put you off what can be a lifetime of enjoyment.

Cheers

John
 
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Columbia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia
ZEISS. Discover the fascinating world of birds, and win a birding trip to Colombia

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