Goshawk (Dreamstime)
List 08 May

7 of the best places to spot birds of prey in the UK

From golden eagles in the Scottish Highlands to peregrine falcons at Land's End, the UK has an amazing variety of birds of prey. Russell Barnett reveals 7 of the best places to see them...

1: Red kite, Brecon Beacons National Park, Wales

A red kite flying over the Brecon Beacons (Dreamstime)

A red kite flying over the Brecon Beacons (Dreamstime)

Red kites once teetered on the edge of extinction, but today they thrive in the wild landscapes of the Brecon Beacons. Thanks to increased protection over the years, numbers have continued to grow and their chestnut-coloured feathers are a spectacular sight to look out for in the national park.

The summit of Pen y Fan is a great place to observe red kites tracing the outskirts of the mountains, before dipping in and out of the valleys.

Journey further north to Gigrin Farm to see them in their greatest numbers. Every day, food is laid out for the hundreds of red kites that cruise the skies before swooping down to grab their share.

2: Peregrine falcon, Land's End, Cornwall

A peregrine falcon surveying its territory (Dreamstime)

A peregrine falcon surveying its territory (Dreamstime)

Peregrine falcons can be spotted in a variety of habitats across the UK, from bleak moorlands to urban cathedrals. But they are most impressive when gliding over the granite cliffs of Cornwall. It's real treat to see this magnificent bird soaring over the derelict tin mines on the West Penwith clifftops.

Peregrines have been widely used in falconry throughout history, and their numbers have increased significantly in recent years. They are most frequently spotted along the coastline of the UK, before they migrate further inland over the winter period.

3: Goshawk, New Forest National Park

A goshawk landing on a tree stump (Dreamstime)

A goshawk landing on a tree stump (Dreamstime)

Originally created as a hunting ground for William the Conqueror, New Forest National Park is home to another top hunter: the goshawk. This predator is a master of aerial manoeuvres, and shoots between trees before taking its prey by surprise.

The dense woodland and open glades of the New Forest provide stable nesting and feeding grounds for goshawks, who are best spotted on clear days in late winter and spring.

Goshawks are relatively scarce compared with other birds of prey, and can only be spotted in a handful of locations across the UK.

4: Osprey, Rutland Water Nature Reserve, Rutland

An osprey with fresh catch (Dreamstime)

An osprey with fresh catch (Dreamstime)

Ospreys were reintroduced to Rutland Water in 1996, and can be spotted nesting on raised platforms around the reserve. Sightings from public paths require binoculars, but visitors can get a closer look on an osprey cruise around the reservoir.

These trips provide close-up angles of ospreys gleaning trout from the surface of the water, that would otherwise be difficult to spot at a distance. Join one of the boat trips at sunrise to snap incredible wildlife photographs in the 'golden hour'.

The best seasons to see ospreys at Rutland are spring and summer, before they migrate to West Africa in the autumn. The reservoir is also home to a large variety of wading birds and is a well-known wetland site with over 25,000 wildfowl.

5: Golden eagle, Coignafearn, Scottish Highlands

A golden eagle stands in Scottish heather (Dreamstime)

A golden eagle stands in Scottish heather (Dreamstime)

Golden eagles are often found in remote landscapes, making the outskirts of the Cairngorms National Park a prime area for spotting these magnificent birds.

River Findhorn – one of Scotland’s largest rivers – winds between the steep-sided hills on the western edges of the Cairngorms to Findhorn Bay. The river that runs parallel offers clear views overhead, making it easier to spot eagles in full flight.

Catch a glimpse of them in action in the Scottish glens as they navigate their prey from the sky, before swooping down for the catch.

6: Hen harrier, Minsmere Nature Reserve, Suffolk

A female hen harrier hunts low over the reeds (Dreamstime)

A female hen harrier hunts low over the reeds (Dreamstime)

Minsmere Nature Reserve is abundant in wildlife, but its main attraction is the hen harrier. This bird of prey breeds in the uplands, before migrating to lowland marshes in the winter, where they roost communally and are easier to spot.

They have disk-shaped feathers similar to those of an owl, which gives them exceptional hearing. In the winter months, they feast on small birds and mammals, while red grouse is their main prey in the summer months.

Ongoing conservation efforts are in place to help save the species from becoming extinct.

7: White-tailed sea eagle, Isle of Mull, Scotland

A white-tailed sea eagle catches fish (Dreamstime)

A white-tailed sea eagle catches fish (Dreamstime)

The white-tailed sea eagle is the UK’s largest bird of prey and has made its stronghold on the Isle of Mull, located off the west coast of Scotland. The sheer size of their barn door wings makes them unmistakable as they drift above the coastal lochs in search of food.

The birds have dramatically boosted tourism on the island – there are several boat trips available specifically to watch them – and their population continues to grow. Photographers should bring a long lens to capture action photos of eagles snatching fish from the surface of the water – some boat operators will even throw out bait to bring the action closer.