Crowborough Common - The Official Site

Crowborough Common
The Official Site


Birds of Crowborough Common - 2012 onwards...


Mike Poole - Course Manager

Aside from the usual visitors to Crowborough Beacon such as robins, blackbirds, wrens and other familiar birds, the following birds of note make their home on and around the golf course. Some of these birds only make a home here on the common due to the knowledgeable and sympathetic Course Management Policy of our valuable habitat.

A breeding pair of kestrels are to be seen nesting around the 8th green. Kestrels are only on the golf course because we furnish them with acres of uncut rough which is what they need to hunt for small mammals. When we do cut these areas at the end of the golfing season, the kestrels follow the tractor knowing full well that the cutting operation disturbs small mammals and they are able to get easy meals. 

The golf course and outlying common is also home to many green woodpeckers. Breeding lesser spotted woodpeckers can be spotted on the 6th and 16th. Again, they make their home here because when carrying out tree work we try to leave standing deadwood, which the lesser spotted seems to like. Greater spotted woodpeckers can be seen around the 8th and 9th holes. Again these birds make their home in some of the standing dead wood. Tawny owls can be spotted if you know where to look. We have Tawnys on the 4th, 7th, 10th and 16th holes. Whilst carrying out rabbit control I will occasionally see the tawny owls, but it's much more usual to hear them.

Non-native Little Owls have been seen by the greenkeepers at the 8th and 14th. Dartford Warblers, once close to extinction, can be seen around the 9th, 14th and 17th holes. Correctly managed gorse stands are important for these birds to nest in and once again the Golf Club's Course Management Policy of rotational gorse pruning is helping these rare birds to flourish. Nightjars visit the course annually and if you are lucky they can be seen around dusk on the 8th, 9th and 14th holes. If you don't see them you will surely hear their distinctive call. 

House martins make their home on East and West Whinfell, to the rear of the 17th green. They can be seen diving around the 17th pond where they collect mud for nesting. Also the young House martins have learnt to follow the rough mower to gobble up the insect life disturbed by the mowing operation. Woodcock can be seen around the 8th and 14th holes. 

Pheasants are all over the course, they escape from the shoot bordering Sinnocks Rough adjacent to the 8th hole. Occasionally they manage to raise a brood, but it is very difficult as we don't practice any predator control on the course. Ground nesting birds including rare nightjars struggle without control of foxes, stoats and corvids.

Our latest new addition, in January 2013, to the list of rarer species is a barn owl which is seen on an almost daily basis by the greenkeepers, hunting in the heather restoration area below the eight fairway. In response to this an owl box has been placed in the area to complement the other recent bird boxes placed strategically around the golf course.


Roy Cottenham - Golf Club member

Roy is a keen local birder. The following is a list of the birds that he regularly sees on the common and the time of year that you might spot them. 

All year round:

  • Blue Tit
  • Great Tit
  • Chaffinch
  • Song Thrush
  • Blackbird
  • Green Woodpecker (usually seen on the ground feeding)
  • Greater Spotted Woodpecker (heard tapping on the trees left of the 10th green)
  • Buzzard (high in the sky looking South towards Buxted)
  • Kestrel
  • Red Kite

Summer migrants: 

  • Black Cap
  • Chiff-Chaff
  • Whitethroat (2nd, 3rd, 12th,14th and 15th Greens) 
  • Meadow Pipit (8th,9th and 14th fairways) 
  • Grey Wagtail (stream of the 5th gulley/ravine)
  • Nightjar (14th green late evening)
  • Redpoll

Birds seen in Winter: 

  • Crossbills (seen feeding on pine cone seeds 10th and 11th)
  • Long-Tailed Tits


Ashdown Forest Bird Group

The Golf Club receive support and advice from Alan Nottage of the Ashdown Forest Bird Group and in the winter of 2012/2013 began a programmme of mounting bird boxes to encourage particular birds to nest on the Common. Different birds require different boxes and the recent daily siting of a beautiful Barn Owl inspired the staff to erect an Owl box to encourage further birds to make their home on the Common.



Birds nesting or recently sited on Crowborough Common


Click on any one of the images below to enlarge, after which you can click again to start a slideshow of the complete collection.


  Click to Enlarge  







The Kestrel has become a familiar sight with its pointed wings and long tail, hovering beside a roadside verge. Numbers of kestrels declined in the 1970s, probably as a result of changes in farming and so it is included on the Amber List.  They have adapted readily to man-made environments and can survive right in the centre of cities. Latin name is Falco tinnunculus

Kestrels are found in a wide variety of habitats, from moor and heath, to farmland and urban areas. The only places they do not favour are dense forests, vast treeless wetlands and mountains. They are a familiar sight, hovering beside a motorway, or other main roads. They can often be seen perched on a high tree branch, or on a telephone post or wire, on the look out for prey.

They can be seen all year round, surviving on small mammals and birds.


Green Woodpecker





The green woodpecker is the largest of the three woodpeckers that breed in Britain. It has a heavy-looking body, short tail and a strong, long bill. It is green on its upperparts with a paler belly, bright yellow rump and red on the top of its head. The black 'moustache' has a red centre in males. They have an undulating flight and a loud, laughing call. Latin name is Picus viridis

Green woodpeckers spend most of their time feeding on the ground. Look out for them on your garden lawn or in parks - short grass provides good feeding opportunities for them. Like other woodpeckers, these birds breed in holes they peck in dead wood. They can be seen in England, Wales and Scotland, though they're absent from the far north and west and Ireland. Can be seen all year round. They survive by eating ants, ants, and more ants. They use their strong beak to dig into ant colonies and eat the inhabitants.


Lesser Spotted Woodpecker








The lesser spotted woodpecker is the smallest and least common of the three woodpeckers that are resident in Britain. The male is distinguished from the female by his bright red crown. It tends to nest and feed higher up and is quieter in its tapping. Usually located by its call, and its drumming. When feeding it creeps along branches and flutters from branch to branch, flying with an undulating flight in the open. Latin name is Dendrocopos minor

You can find it in open woods, copses, parkland, gardens and orchards, but it tends to frequent the tops of trees, searching for larvae, spiders and wood-boring insects on smaller branches. In the UK, it is mainly limited to the south with the highest density of population occurring in the south-east of England. Lesser spotted woodpeckers do not breed in Scotland or on islands, such as the Isle of Wight, (although they are found on the Channel Islands) and they are absent from Ireland. In northern England, the lesser spotted is extremely local in Yorkshire, rare in Lancashire and in Wales scattered pairs occur apart from in the far west.

The best time to look for it is in spring when it is active and there are not too many leaves on the trees, and when it is likely to call and drum. Eats insects.


Great Spotted Woodpecker





About blackbird-sized and striking black-and-white. It has a very distinctive bouncing flight and spends most of its time clinging to tree trunks and branches, often trying to hide on the side away from the observer.  Its presence is often announced by its loud call or by its distinctive spring 'drumming' display. The male has a distinctive red patch on the back of the head and young birds have a red crown. Latin name Dendrocopos major.

Found in woodlands, especially with mature broad-leaved trees, although mature conifers will support them. Also in parks and large gardens. Will come to peanut feeders and birdtables. Not found in the far North of Scotland. Only a handful of pairs nest in Ireland, but numbers are increasing. Common in England and Wales. Visible all year round, they eat insects, seeds and nuts.

Little Owl







 This small owl was introduced to the UK in the 19th century. It can be seen in the daylight, usually perching on a tree branch, telegraph pole or rock. It will bob its head up and down when alarmed. In flight it has long, rounded wings, rapid wingbeats and flies with a slight undulation. Breeding Bird Survey data suggest that Little owl numbers are declining, with the UK population estimated to be down by 24 per cent between 1995 and 2008. Latin name is  Athene noctua

Found in England and Wales with a few in southern Scotland. It likes lowland farmland with hedges and copses, parkland and orchards. Most common in central, southern and south eastern England, and the Welsh borders. Spotted all year round, during the day. It hunts at night and dawn. Eats small mammals and birds, beetles and worms.


Dartford Warbler





The small, dark, long-tailed Dartford Warbler is resident in the UK and has suffered in the past from severe winters.  Its population crashed to a few pairs in the 1960s, since when it has gradually recovered, increasing in both numbers and range.  It is still regarded as an Amber List species.  It will perch on top of a gorse stem to sing, but is often seen as a small flying shape bobbing between bushes. Latin name is Sylvia undata

They are to be found on Lowland heathland with gorse and heather. Look for them at RSPB reserves at Arne, Dorset; Aylesbeare, Devon; and North Warren Suffolk. Also try Dunwich Heath, Suffolk, the Surrey and Dorset heathlands, and the New Forest. Heathland golf courses with sound course management policies have become increasingly valuable habitats for the Dartford Warbler. They can be seen all year round and they live on Insects.











Nightjars are nocturnal birds and can be seen hawking for food at dusk and dawn. With pointed wings and a long tails their shape is similar to a kestrel or cuckoo. Their cryptic, grey-brown, mottled, streaked and barred plumage provides ideal camouflage in the daytime. They have an almost supernatural reputation with their silent flight and their mythical ability to steal milk from goats. The first indication that a nightjar is near is usually the male's churring song, rising and falling with a ventriloquial quality. Latin name is Caprimulgus europaeus

They can be found on heathlands, moorlands, in open woodland with clearings, and in recently felled conifer plantations. Most numerous in southern England with good numbers in the New Forest, Dorset and Surrey heathlands, and Thetford forest in Suffolk. Also found in parts of Wales, northern England and SW Scotland. RSPB reserves with nightjars are: Arne, Dorset; Aylesbeare, Devon; and Minsmere and North Warren, Suffolk. The Nightjar arrives in the UK between late April to mid-May, they are best looked and listened for at dusk on warm, still, summer evenings. They mainly leave in August and September. They survive on Insects - moths and beetles.


House Martins








The house martin is a small bird with glossy blue-black upper parts and pure white under parts. It has a distinctive white rump with a forked tail and, on close inspection, white feathers covering its legs and toes. It spends much of its time on the wing collecting insect prey. The bird's mud nest is usually sites below the eaves of buildings. They are summer migrants and spend their winters in Africa. Although still numerous and widespread, recent moderate declines earn them a place on the Amber List. Latin name is Delichon urbica.

Across UK, although scarce in far N and W of Scotland. Mostly associated with man, found around towns and villages. Feeds on aerial insects and so is most frequently seen in areas of mixed agriculture, near water and in the vicinity of woodland. They return to the UK in April, often feeding over wetlands for a while before returning to their traditional nest sites, remaining here until September and October before migrating south. Eat insects.








 The woodcock is a large bulky wading bird with short legs, and a very long straight tapering bill. It is largely nocturnal, spending most of the day in dense cover. Most of the birds in the UK are residents; in the autumn birds move to the UK from Finland and Russia to winter here. The breeding population has been falling recent years, perhaps because of less habitat as conifer plantations become too mature for woodcocks to find open enough breeding areas. Latin name is Scolopax rusticola.

It can be found in suitable habitat in summer throughout the UK, except for south-west England. In winter, birds are widespread in lowland areas. You would be very lucky to see one, but you may inadvertently disturb one from its resting place, when it flies off, zigzagging between the trees and dropping back into cover. seen all year round, they thrive on worms, beetles, spiders, caterpillars, fly larvae and small snails.


Barn Owl










Although in no way as plentiful as the tawny owl, the barn owlis most likely seen much more often than the commoner species. This is not merely because of its preference for human haunts-from farm barns to village belfries-for roosting and nesting, but additionally on account of its feeding habits.

For this quarters the open fields, instead of woodland, looking for prey and, specifically in late winter, may often begin its forays in the dim daylight of the afternoon. It's even more apt to be seen in daylight during the evenings throughout May and June, when the protracted business of rearing young is within full swing. Then, once the location of the feeding-beat has been seen as, the hunter (or hunters, since some, recognisably different in plumage, is going to be involved) could be watched at leisure.

The hunting way is fairly constant: a leisurely, buoyant flight just a few feet above the herbage, now and then billowing up to twenty feet approximately, as if to achieve impetus for the next run; occasional hesitant wavering, sometimes developing into momentary winnowing hovers; a propensity to follow the field boundaries, whether hedges, walls or railway embankments; and the final moment when sight gets control from hearing in the location of the prey and there's a rapid shoot downward with legs to the fore with wings extended but cupped forward.










The Buzzard is now the commonest and most widespread UK bird of prey. It is quite large with broad, rounded wings, and a short neck and tail. When gliding and soaring it will often hold its wings in a shallow 'V' and the tail is fanned. Birds are variable in colour from all dark brown to much paler variations, all have dark wingtips and a finely barred tail. Their plaintive mewing call could be mistaken for a cat. Latin name is Buteo buteo.

Greatest numbers are to be found in Scotland, Wales, the Lake District and SW England, but now breeding in every county of the UK. Found in most habitats particularly woodland, moorland, scrub, pasture, arable, marsh bog and villages. May even be seen in towns and cities including Glasgow. Look for birds soaring over wooded hillsides in fine weather, or perched on fence posts and pylons. In some areas they are known as the tourists’ eagle, often being mistaken for this larger bird of prey. They can be seen all year round. Birds soar, display and call most in spring. They eat small mammals, birds and carrion. And even earthworms and large insects when other prey is in short supply.


Red Kite






The Red Kite is a magnificently graceful bird of prey is unmistakable with its reddish-brown body, angled wings and deeply forked tail. It was saved from national extinction by one of the world's longest running protection programmes, and has now been successfully re-introduced to England and Scotland. It is an Amber List species because of its historical decline. Latin name is Milvus milvus.

At one time confined to Wales, a reintroduction scheme has brought them back to many parts of England and Scotland. Central Wales, central England - especially the Chilterns, central Scotland - at Argaty, and along the Galloway Kite Trail are the best areas to find them.

They can be seen all year round. They mainly eat carrion and worms, but opportunistic and will occasionally take small mammals.








A distinctive greyish warbler, the male has a black cap, and the female a chestnut one. Its delightful fluting song has earned it the name 'northern nightingale'. Although primarily a summer visitor birds from Germany and north-east Europe are increasingly spending the winter in the UK. Latin name is Sylvia atricapilla

Best looked for in woodland, parks and gardens with plenty of trees and shrubs. In winter will readily come into gardens. Breeding birds arrive in April and May, leaving in September and October. Some European birds winter in the UK, largely in England. They eat mainly insects and berries.








A small olive-brown warbler which actively flits through trees and shrubs, with a distinctive tail-wagging movement. Less bright than the similar willow warbler and readily distinguished by its song, from where it gets its name.  Picks insects from trees and also flies out to snap them up in flight. Latin name Phylloscopus collybita.

Found in lowland woodlands, parks and large gardens. Seen all year round, but most arrive in late March and depart in August and September. Survives on insects.








The whitethroat is a medium-sized warbler, about the size of a great tit. It has quite a long tail which it flicks and cocks as it darts rapidly in and out of cover. The male has a grey head, a white throat and a brown back, and is buff underneath. It is a summer visitor and passage migrant, with birds breeding widely, although it avoids urban and mountainous areas. It winters in Africa, south of the Sahara. Latin name is Sylvia communis

Found over most of the UK. Look in any piece of suitable habitat in summer. Can be seen from mid-April to early October. They live on Insects, and berries and fruit in autumn.


Meadow Pipit









A small, brown, streaky bird, it is the commonest songbird in upland areas and its high, piping call is a familiar sound. In flight it shows white outer tail feathers and in the breeding season it has a fluttering 'parachute' display flight. In winter they are quite gregarious and gather in small flocks, often invisible among the vegetation, suddenly flying up with typical jerky flight. Meadow pipit numbers in the UK have been declining since the mid-1970s, resulting in this species being included on the amber list of conservation concern.  Latin name is Anthus pratensis

Found across the UK but commonest in the west and north. In winter it moves south, to more lowland areas and becomes much commoner in the southern half of the UK. Found in open country - upland moors to saltmarshes in summer, more agricultural land and marshes in winter. Will even come to suburban parks and playing fields. Found all year round. In summer most common in upland areas which become deserted in winter as birds move to more lowland habitats, some migrating to Continental Europe. Eats, insects - flies, beetles and moths - and spiders.


Grey Wagtail







The grey wagtail is more colourful than its name suggests with slate grey upper parts and distinctive lemon yellow under-tail. Its tail is noticeably longer than those of pied and yellow wagtails. They have gradually increased their range in the past 150 years and in the UK have expanded into the English lowlands from the northern and western uplands. They are badly affected by harsh winters, and because of recent moderate declines it is an Amber List species. Latin name is Motacilla cinerea.

Found over most of the UK, with the exception of the Northern and western isles of Scotland. Likes fast flowing rivers in summer their greatest densities are in the hills of England, Scotland and Wales. In winter they can be seen around farmyards and lowland streams, even in city centres. Scarce in central and eastern England in summer and from upland areas in winter. Eats insects.

Lesser Redpoll







This tiny finch – only slightly bigger than a blue tit – is streaky and brown with patches of red on its head and sometimes its breast. They like to hang upside down to feed in trees. It has recently been 'split' from the mealy (or common) redpoll, a larger and paler species which is a winter visitor to the UK. Latin name is Carduelis cabaret.

They breed in woodland, but also visit gardens. Lesser redpolls can be seen dangling from tiny twigs in birch and alder trees, or perhaps on shrub stems. This is a widespread breeding species in Scotland, northern and eastern England and Wales. It is less common in central, southern and south-west England, but does occur in these places in winter. In many areas, winter is the easiest time to see lesser redpolls, after the trees have lost their leaves. Their breeding population has declined and they're much less common than they once were. Eats seeds, particularly of birch and alder, plus plants like willowherb and sorrel, but they also visit bird feeders.






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