Bird Migration – an update: April 2024

Swallow flying over a field

Bird migration is in full swing!

Many of the world’s birds migrate, meaning they move between locations. This generally occurs in spring and autumn, where birds are moving to and from breeding sites and winter-feeding grounds. Some birds, such as Swallows, Swifts, Cuckoos and Common Terns travel large distances over thousands of miles, while others may travel between the north and south of the country. Changes in day length and temperatures are cues, which set the birds ready for these journeys.


The majority of the birds which overwinter with us have headed up north to their own breeding grounds, including ducks (Goldeneye, Wigeon, Teal), thrushes (Redwing, Fieldfare) and even smaller birds (Brambling, Siskin). Our summer birds have already started their vacations, some, like the Oystercatcher, arrived back in January.


Each year at Pensthorpe we record the first sightings of these migrating birds, and we roughly know when each species should be arriving. The table below has arrival dates for our summer bird visitors going back to 2018 and includes those which have arrived so far this year.

Species 2024 2023 2022 2021 2020 2019 2018
Avocet 13th March 21st February 8th March 22nd March 14th March 6th March 9th March
Blackcap 20th March 26th March 4th April 31st March 12th April 20th March 13th April
Chiffchaff 7th March 17th March 16th March 11th March 6th March 1st March 21st March
Common Tern 20th April 24th April 23rd April 26th April 9th April 20th April
Cuckoo 23rd April 24th April 28th April 26th April 22nd April 19th April
Garden Warbler 28th April 3rd May 18th May 17th May 30th April 9th April
House Martin 28th March 6th April 12th April 15th April 10th May 4th April 13th April
Lesser Whitethroat 23rd April 24th April 5th May 26th April 24th April 18th April
Little Ringed Plover 25th March 8th April 1st April 9th April 24th May 2nd April 13th April
Oystercatcher 30th January 30th January 9th February 3rd February 15th January 8th February 26th January
Reed Warbler 21st April 25th April 24th April 19th April 19th April 19th April
Sand Martin 26th March 31st March 6th April 8th April 3rd May 9th April 9th April
Sedge Warbler 12th April 12th April 21st April 12th April 17th April 16th April
Swallow 29th March 31st March 6th April 6th April 12th April 7th April 5th April
Swift 26th April 10th May 5th May 10th May 9th May 24th April
Whitethroat 26th April 21st April 26th April 17th May 20th April 10th May
Willow Warbler 31st March 3rd April 15th April 4th March 10th April 9th April


One thing we can definitely see is a trend of earlier arrivals for some of these birds. Climate change even affects these travellers, as rising temperatures set birds on earlier flights. This is fine as long as food and shelter are available when birds arrive. But as we know with recent weather, it can be very unpredictable. Linked with other factors, such as habitat loss, predation, and hunting, it is no wonder a lot of these birds are under threat.


So, what are we doing to help at Pensthorpe?

  • We manage 700 acres of mixed habitat, creating homes and food for a whole host of birds.
  • We supplement natural food supplies with bird feeders and crops on our farm; nesting sites with a range of boxes and have added more ponds as all important water sources.
  • We regularly monitor bird numbers and arrivals to enable us to carry out the right management.

And by visiting us or becoming a member, you are helping us in this vital work. Finf out more about becoming a member: 


Blog by: David Roberts, Senior Reserve Warden