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In West Wales, certain birds can be seen near bodies of freshwater such as rivers, lakes, reservoirs and estuaries. The larger ones such as ducks, geese, swans and herons are easy to spot but look out for some of the smaller ones such as Kingfishers and Dippers, too.


Many ducks and waders make their nests by freshwater in upland territory. Whether here in the UK or further north or east, it is unlikely that you will see them during the breeding season as they keep well out of sight. The best time to see ducks is between November and March when large numbers of migrants arrive, descending to large inland bodies of water such as reservoirs, lakes and flooded gravel pits. Ducks which favour fresh water but can also be seen near the mouth of estuaries are Pochards, Tufted Ducks, Wigeon and Golden Eye. The first two of these often flock together and are bold enough to visit urban lakes; they can become quite tame when fed for some time and are resident at the Wetlands Centre. Of course, Mallards remain the most ubiquitous duck and are the ones which do the really loud quacking.

Other water birds

Other water birds are Coot and Moorhen, which pad about in the shallows beside lakes and in spring will often be accompanied by their tiny black pom-pom chicks.

There are numerous herons and swans as well as huge flocks of Canada Geese which are increasing in numbers and have a mixed reception in the Teifi Valley. In late summer and autumn they form massive V shapes across the sky flying to and from their feeding grounds.

The two most common Grebes – Little and Great Crested – favour fresh water and can be seen at several locations in the area.

Rushing streams attract the amazing Dipper, with its talent for standing on the riverbed underwater whilst searching for food. Grey Wagtails also favour this environment so watch out for a flash of brilliant yellow and a bobbing tail.

We’ve also had an influx of Little Egrets over recent years, so if you see a huge, pure white bird a bit like a heron – that’s what it is.

The Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust Centre at Llanelli is home to 600 species of birds and hosts events and activities for all the family. Cycle the paths or canoe the waterways to spot wildlife.

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Canada Goose

Brown speckled body, black neck ending abruptly. Very distinctive white cheek patch. In autumn, see them fly across Teifi Estuary at dawn and dusk in gaggling formations which are lovely to behold.

Size: 100cm Where: Sea coast, Fresh water
Summer Visitor

Common Sandpiper

Like a Dunlin but legs are dull colour (not black like Dunlin’s). It has very white underside but speckly elsewhere and on chest. Bill: medium length, straight. In flight: wide white stripe along centre of wing and white sides on tail. Tail looks rounded/blunt and dark (not white like Green Sandpiper).

Size: 20cm Where: Sea coast, Fresh water


Wetland bird with bright white facial shield; white bill, dark plumage, long pale green legs and very large lobed feet.

Size: 37cm Where: Fresh water


Always near streams and rivers. They bob about on the rocks and dive into water to feed. They can even walk into water and hold on with their feet while looking for insects. Looks like a female blackbird with a big white bib. Unmistakeable.

Size: 18cm Where: Fresh water


Commonest tiny wader. Winter: dull grey-brown with whiter belly. More colour other times with russet back, greyer head and breast, black belly. Thin bill. Thin white line along wing in flight, dark rump with white sides. Does many quick dashes; not as fast and erratic as Sanderling and less ponderous than Knot.

Size: 18cm Where: Sea coast, Inland, Fresh water
Winter Visitor


Sitting on the water it is stocky with a big head and rounded, thick bill. Male has white spot on dark green head; dark upper wing and white underparts. Female has brown head and otherwise greyish. Looks dark on water. Both show white inner wing in flight.

Size: 40-48cm Where: Sea coast, Inland, Fresh water
Winter Visitor


Often largest bird in mixed flocks of water fowl. Male: dull greenish black head, pinkish white breast. In flight wings are half white, half black with white innermost. Bill: dark red, thinning to tip with large hook. Female has dark reddish brown head and white chin and blue-grey with white inner wing and belly.

Size: 63-69cm Where: Sea coast, Fresh water
Winter Visitor

Great Crested Grebe

Very elegant with long neck, which is hunched when swimming. Same size as mallard. Bill is like a dagger and pale pink. In flight shows large stripes of white at front and back of wings. Legs trail.

Size: 45-51cm Where: Sea coast, Fresh water

Grey Heron

A large bird with a very long neck which is often hunched up while it stands stock-still looking for fish. Huge wing span. Unmistakeable.

Size: 90cm Where: Fresh water

Grey Wagtail

It’s grey on top and male is very yellow underneath in spring. Tail is black with broad white edges. Belly goes paler in winter. The whole rear end bobs up and down. Very similar to yellow wagtail, but these are rarer.

Size: 18cm Where: Fresh water


Much smaller than you might imagine and hard to spot unless you’re in the right place! It prefers slow-moving sections of river with overhanging branches out of which it might flit for a few yards. Vivid turquoise and orange.

Size: 16cm Where: Fresh water
Winter Visitor


Numbers declining. Distinctive long head crest and loud ‘peewit’ call. Flocks swoop and wheel as if blown by wind. Distinctive broad wings with blunt end in flight. Dark greenish with purple of blue wings, white throat and belly plus inner part of underwing. Shows white band above black tail when in flight.

Size: 30cm Where: Sea coast, Fresh water, Island

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