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The UK is home to different species of animals. But do you know which ones are native to the country? If you want to learn about native British animals, we’ve listed some of them below:
The red deer is a native British animal that started inhabiting the country 11,000 years ago. It is named as such because it has a reddish-brown coat. However, this summer coat changes to grey or brown during the winter. This is considered the largest land-mammal in the UK with stags having an average height of 107 to 137 centimetres. Their preferred habitats are forests and woodlands. Spotting red deer roaming around is fairly common since they have a large population in the country. You can also find red deer in parks like Bushy Park, Richmond Park, Grimsthorpe Castle Park & Gardens and Holkham Hall & Estate.
The Scottish Wildcat is the only native cat species in Britain. They used to be found all over the UK; currently, however, their population is concentrated in Scotland. As compared to domestic cats, wildcats are 25% bigger and have longer legs. Despite their size difference, distinguishing wildcats from domestic tabby cats can be challenging for those with untrained eyes. One way to differentiate the two is to check the tail – wildcats have tails which are bushy and blunt with a black tip.
Conservationists have announced that Scottish wildcats are on the brink of getting extinct, primarily because of crossbreeding with domestic cats. The fear is that, if left unaddressed, this crossbreeding is going to wipe out the original wildcat species, leaving us only with hybridised animals.
What is a vole? It is a mouse-like rodent that belongs to the Cricetidae family. It has a fatter body, smaller ears and shorter legs and tail compared to a mouse. This particular species of vole is endemic to Skomer, an island in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Experts say that it had been in the island since the last Ice Age.
An estimated 20,000 voles inhabit the islands with most of them settling in areas where vegetation is thick to avoid predators. They have a short life span, just 18 months. However, many of them rarely live their full lifespan as they are the staple food of owls as well as hawks and buzzards.
Referred to by some as the national bird of Scotland, this huge raptor has a wingspan of 2.2 metres. Next to the white-tailed eagle, the golden eagle is the second largest bird in the UK. They primarily prey on grouse, hares, rabbits, deer and even calves. In the 19th century, their population in the country declined because of widespread killing and unsuccessful breeding.
Fortunately, a report in 2016 announced that the golden eagle’s population in UK has increased by 15% since 2003. However, unlike before when they were all over Britain, they can only be found in Scotland these days. If you want to spot these huge raptors, some of the best places to see them are Knapdale Forest, Findhorn Valley in Invernesshire and the Eagle Observatory in the Isle of Harris.
Usually bearing a russet red fur, the red squirrel is smaller with a narrower body compared to American grey squirrels. It also has tufted ears and a twitching tail. Despite its name, not all red squirrels have red fur as some of them are coloured grey. Apart from seeds, they also eat shrub fruits, fungi and even birds’ eggs.
There is a growing concern about their population in the UK since the introduced American grey squirrel is outnumbering them. With the large number of grey squirrel in the country, the reds are struggling to find habitat and food. This is why there is an ongoing effort to curb grey squirrel population for the native British red squirrels to thrive. If you want to see red squirrels in the UK, the best time to do so is during autumn at Brownsea Island Nature Reserve or Knapdale Forest.
Don’t be deceived by its name! This animal is not a worm; it is a legless lizard. Many also think it is a snake. How do you distinguish it from a snake? The slow worm has eyelids and ear openings. Meanwhile, just like other lizards, it can shed its tail which it usually does when trying to escape predators.
Distinguishing grown male and female slow worm is easy. Males typically are coloured dark grey or black with some bearing blue spots. Meanwhile, females don black or dark brown stripes. Slow worms are found all over Britain. However, spotting them can be difficult since they spend most of their time underground.
Identifying a water rail is easy with its long, red bill, black and chestnut-brown upper body and grey face and ventral body parts. It’s not a very good flyer, but it is capable of swimming – a skill that helps it find food and evade predators. One noteworthy thing about water rails is that their call sounds more like an alarmed piglet than a bird.
While they can be spotted all year round, the best time to see this reclusive bird is during winter. One reason for this is there are more of them during this season with migratory water rail from northern Europe coming in. Another reason is that they are forced to get out of their habitats to forage for food.
A member of the weasel family, the pine marten is about the size of a small cat. Most of them have chestnut-brown fur, pale yellow patch on their chin and throat and a bushy tail. This animal is a predator, eating birds, small rodents and beetles. It also feeds on berries during the summer and autumn. In fact, during these seasons, berries usually make up 30% of their diet.
Their population is mainly concentrated in Northern Britain, particularly the Scottish highlands and Grampians. They live in rocky hillsides and thick woodland, typically in tree holes or old bird or squirrel nests. They can be spotted any time of the year, even during winter because they have thick coats.
They may be called “oystercatcher”, but this does not mean that this bird only eats oysters. In fact, its diet is primarily composed of mussels and cockles and worms when in inland areas. This striking bird is easy to spot with its orange-red beak, reddish-pink legs and black and white plumage.
The oystercatcher is seen on most UK coasts. During winter, its population increases since those from other European countries migrate here. If you want to see them during this season, check out large estuaries like Morecambe Bay. Currently, the oystercatcher is classed as vulnerable in Europe. It is believed that their decline in the population in the past may have been due to limited availability of food, specifically shellfish.
Image Attribution: Photograph by Tony Hisgett from Birmingham, UK (Golden Eagle 12aUploaded by Magnus Manske) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AGolden_Eagle_12a_(6027292102).jpg
Image Attribution: Photograph by Airwolfhound [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AScottish_Wildcat_(17245513781).jpg
Image Attribution: Photograph by Pawel Ryszawa (Own work) [GFDL, CC-BY-SA-3.0 or CC BY-SA 2.5-2.0-1.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ARed_Squirrel_-_Lazienki.JPG
Image Attribution: Photograph by Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC BY-SA 2.5], via Wikimedia Commons
Image Resource: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3AEurasian-Oystercatcher.jpg