Location Bristol Channel SS1443
Access By boat – MS Oldenburg
Habitat See notes
Size 445 ha
Access By MS Oldenburg on scheduled trips
Site Manager Warden –
Tenure National Trust

Golden Oriole Lundy © S BarnesLundy from the air R Campney

Places to GoLundy

Straddling the confluence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Bristol Channel, the island of Lundy (geographical coordinates 51°11’N 4°40’W) lies some 18 km north-north-west of the North Devon mainland at Hartland Point and approximately 48 km south of the two nearest points on the South Wales coast at St Govan’s Head (Pembrokeshire) and Worms Head (Gower).

The island’s modest dimensions – about 5 km long and a little over 1 km at the widest point – belie its variety of landscapes.

The island plateau, covering some 445 hectares, provides a haven for land birds, resident and migrant alike, while the heavily indented coastline, with its long grassy sidelands, towering cliffs, rocky shoreline and open sea – to the east the Bristol Channel, to the west the Atlantic Ocean – attract many species typical of such habitats, and some completely atypical.

The variety of natural and semi-natural habitats include:

  • Shallow inshore waters
  • Boulder beaches and rocky platforms
  • Sea cliffs
  • Grassy and boulder-strewn sidelands
  • Grazed, semi-improved grassland
  • Wet moorland
  • ‘Waved’ heathland with wind-pruned ‘waved’-form gorse and heather
  • Freshwater habitats
  • Vegetated combes
  • Improved grassland, farm and village buildings, drystone walls.

The island is a magnet for birdwatchers, drawn by the sheer variety and number of birds that – given the right time of year and weather conditions – can be encountered within a relatively tiny area.

At the time of publication of The Birds of Lundy (see below) in September 2007 there were 317 different bird species on the ‘Lundy list’. Since then, 15 new species have been added: Paddyfield Warbler (2008), Barolo Shearwater (2010), Pomarine Skua (2010), Trumpeter Finch (2011), Cory's Shearwater (2011), Black Guillemot (2012), Booted Warbler (2013), Blyth's Reed Warbler (2013), Dipper (2014), Pallid Swift (2016), Green Warbler (2018), Squacco Heron (2019), Cattle Egret (2019), Isabelline Wheatear (2019) and Killdeer (2020 - subject to BBRC acceptance), bringing the total to 332 species. The average number of species recorded annually on Lundy between 1980 and 2019 is 143, with the all-time record being 160 species in 1985.

The number of breeding species is much lower, being typically around 30 to 35 in any one year. Taking all years into consideration, 70 species are known to have bred, with possible breeding by a further 14 species. The latest addition as a confirmed breeding species are Storm Petrel (2014) and Blackcap (2016). 

The wealth of Lundy’s bird life can be enjoyed whether visiting for a few hours on a day trip or, better still, by staying on the island, either camping or in one of the self-catering cottages run by the Landmark Trust.

Spring (from March to early June) and autumn (August to November) are the periods of greatest interest for birdwatchers. Migrant birds are passing through at these times, with spring providing the added attraction of breeding sea and land birds.

An added attraction for birdwatchers on the island, particularly in autumn, is ‘seawatching’. Comparatively little of this peaceful (if sometimes uncomfortable) pastime has been done from Lundy’s cliff-tops, but with modern optics there is always the chance of finding unusual shearwaters, sea-ducks, divers, terns, skuas, non-breeding gull species and perhaps even phalaropes. There is certainly plenty of potential for adding some exciting new records, as Tim Jones and Tom Bedford did in 2010 with the first sighting of a Pomarine Skua from the island during a seawatch at North End.

Much of the above information, and lots more, is contained in The Birds of Lundy, published in 2007 but now out of print, though copies may still be available on eBay or abebooks.com.

For more information about birds on Lundy go to www.birdsoflundy.org.uk, and for recent sightings visit www.lundybirds.blogspot.co.uk.

Contributed by Tim Davis, March 2015 (updated August 2020)