Wildlife Facts

gull3Here are some fascinating facts about some of Bristol city centre’s wildlife characters:

Swan Stats

  • Swans have been in Bristol’s docks for at least 300 years!
  • They’re here all year, but numbers go up in winter, when birds fly in from as far away as Abbotsbury in Dorset to benefit from warmer waters and a guaranteed source of food.
  • Swans fly away to breed, because of a lack of suitable nest sites in the docks.
  • The success of last year’s breeding can be worked out by the number of young (grey/brown) birds around.
  • You can tell males from females by their bill – they’re brighter orange and have a larger black lump on top.
  • Swans sometimes crash land on Bristol Bridge, causing traffic chaos!

Pigeon Pointers

  • Bristol’s pigeons are some of the best documented in the world – being studied over the years by a keen local birdwatcher.
  • The biggest recorded flock was 440 birds in the centre.
  • People often feed pigeons in the same place year after year, and there are distinct flocks around the centre of Bristol – fed by local pigeon fans.
  • Pigeon courtship is flamboyant – the male ruffles his head and neck feathers and does a circle dance, often cooing to attract a feathered friend.

fishFishy Facts

  • Pike, bream, roach, eel are all found in the cleaner water of the docks, as cormorants have discovered for themselves!

Gull Guide

  • The city’s gulls are some of the best monitored anywhere.
  • Roof top nursery. There are over 300 pairs of herring gulls and 900 pairs of lesser black-backs nesting on roof tops in and around the city centre.
  • Herring gulls are around all year. But most lesser black-backs head south in the colder months to Portugal and Africa, where a big attraction is the sardine industry and its rich pickings.
  • Black-headed gulls visit in winter. Over 500 can be seen in central Bristol. They roost at Chew Valley Lake, but commute to Bristol for food each day.
  • Gulls love to gobble scraps. But they also gather on grassy areas to ‘dance for their dinner’, feasting on worms brought to the surface, for a healthy alternative.
  • Confused? It’s easy. The legs have it! You can tell the difference between the gulls by their legs, lesser black-backed are yellow, herring are pink, and black-headed are red.
    Left to right: Lesser black-backed gull; Herring gull; Black-headed gull

Interactive map

Did you know?