Bearded birds come to Living Coasts

(Last Updated On: May 3, 2019)

Beards are all the rage right now – and some new arrivals at Living Coasts are right on trend. The bearded reedlings can be found near the tranquil estuary habitat.

They’re small orange-brown birds with long tails and yellowy-orange bills. The male has a grey head – but strangely, what it doesn’t have is a beard… It has at best moustaches. The female is generally paler.

The four have come from Living Coasts’ sister zoo, Newquay Zoo in Cornwall. This is a new satellite group to the charity’s main breeding group there. This native species does not have a high conservation status because there are good populations in some parts in Europe, but it’s found only in small pockets in the UK.

The Trust’s UK Conservation Officer, Dr Tracey Hamston, said: “This is a good species for us to have at Living Coasts. They fit perfectly with our estuary habitat there and they have been seen at Slapton Ley, which is a key wetlands site owned by the Trust. They therefore link with our native species work and our Nearby Nature theme. This is a great opportunity for birdwatchers to see this elusive native species.”

Living Coasts spokesperson Phil Knowling said: “They have a characteristic call – it’s like a little ping – and this will add to the restful mix of bird calls that make the estuary such a nice place to be.” This species loves wetlands, breeding in large reed beds by lakes or swamps. It eats aphids in summer and seeds in winter. Research suggests that these birds are unique, with no other living species particularly closely related to them.

The bearded reedling (Panurus biarmicus) is resident in the UK, with a few hundred pairs in England largely confined to the south and east and a small population in Lancashire. In Ireland a handful of pairs breed. The largest single population in Great Britain is found at the mouth of the River Tay in Perth and Kinross, Scotland. For more information go to or ring 01803 202470.

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