The kestrel eats small mammals such as voles and shrews, which live in amongst roadside verges and grassland. They nest in the Avon Gorge and on buildings close to the Cumberland Basin. Kestrels can often be seen hovering above fields and roads looking for food.

housemartinHouse Martins

House Martins are small black and white birds, which visit the Floating Harbour during the summer. They fly to Bristol from parts of Africa. House Martins collect mud from the River Avon, which they use to construct nests under the eaves of buildings.

muteswanMute Swans

Mute Swans are common around the Welsh Back and Bristol Bridge. During the summer there may be 50 individuals living in and around the Floating Harbour; in the winter this can rise to 100. They are mainly young birds with a grey beak and white to grey-brown feathers. Adults have a bright orange beak and pure white feathers.

mallardduckMallard Duck

Mallard ducks are a common duck around the Floating Harbour. During the summer small family groups can be spotted on the water. Sometimes you may see other more unusual coloured mallards, including pure white ones. These are domestic ducks, which have been released onto the water by owners who no longer wish to keep them.


seagullDuring the summer over 2,000 pairs of herring and lesser black-backed gulls nest in Bristol. They use the Floating Harbour for washing, feeding and resting.

Before the 1970s, gulls didn’t nest in Bristol. Since then rubbish tips have provided lots of food for gulls. Much of what we throw away is good food for the gulls and thousands fly from Bristol to Gloucester tip every day just to eat.

Herring gull – These are large gulls with light-grey wings and pink legs.

Lesser black-backed gull – These are large gulls with dark grey/black wings and yellow legs.

Black-headed gull – These are much smaller than herring or lesser black-backed gulls. They have a red beak and legs, silver grey wings and a dark smudge behind eye in winter. They have a brown head in the summer.


Cormorants are large birds that use the Floating Harbour to dive for fish. After fishing they rest on the jetties and buildings. They are often seen holding their wings out to dry. They do this because they are less waterproof than ducks. Having wet feathers helps cormorants to sink and therefore dive deeper for fish and eels.

See our wildlife photo gallery.

Interactive map

Did you know?