The first swallows of the season are being spotted across Devon, as spring migration brings the return of a variety of bird species to our rolling Devon hills.
Did you know that around half of the UK’s bird species migrate each year? Some take short journeys, and others travel thousands of miles. Birds use a wide range of techniques to navigate their way. They can use visual landmarks like rivers or the stars; the Earth’s magnetic field; smell; or even just follow other birds. However they do it, migration is a truly incredible feat.
So what is flying through the skies across Devon at spring time? We want to celebrate with a guide to who you may be lucky enough to spot on your visit to Devon.
Swallows are small birds with dark, glossy-blue backs, red throats, pale underparts and long tail streamers. They are extremely agile in flight and spend most of their time on the wing.
The swift is a medium-sized aerial bird, which is a superb flyer. Sleeping, eating, bathing and even mating on the wing, swifts rarely touch the ground. They are also the fastest birds in level flight, with an impressive top speed of 69mph. Swifts are plain sooty brown, with a white throat, but in flight against the sky they appear black.
The cuckoo is a dove-sized bird with a blue-grey back, head and chest, and dark barred and white under parts. With their sleek body, long tail and pointed wings, they are not unlike kestrels or sparrowhawks. Their distinctive call is normally the first sign that you are in their company.
Redstarts are immediately identifiable by their bright orange-red tails, which they often quiver. Breeding males look smart, with slate grey upper parts, black faces and wings and an orange rump and chest. Females and young are duller. Redstarts ‘bob’ in a very robin-like manner, but spend little time at ground level.
The attractive but unobtrusive wood warbler is one of the largest Phylloscopus warblers in Europe. It has bright yellow upper parts, throat and upper chest and white under parts. The species is widespread and numerous in deciduous forest in Europe and reaches its highest densities in the UK.
About the size of a kestrel with long pointed wings, reminiscent of a giant swift. It has a dashing flight and will chase large insects and small birds like swallows and martins. Prey is often caught in its talons and transferred to its beak in flight. Can accelerate rapidly in flight and is capable of high-speed aerial manoeuvres. Hobbies are listed as a Schedule 1 bird on The Wildlife and Countryside Act.
We would love to know if you spot any interesting birds whilst in Devon. Be sure to tag us in your posts so we can enjoy your wonderful finds.