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The Bird And Recreation Initiative AKA BARI (pronounced Barry!) has been set up to protect these important bird species and their habitats. The SPA spans the whole harbour from Studland to Sandbanks and gives these precious habitats and species some much needed protection.
With a growing population living in Poole Harbour there is a growing pressure on their habitats, but it also means there are more people to champion wildlife friendly adventures and help harbour birds thrive not just survive! We all help to make a difference!


The following birds are thriving in Poole Harbour and we want to tell you all about them and promote wildlife friendly adventures that will keep Poole Harbour wild.


The epic migrations these birds make to winter or breed in the harbour is astounding and bird migrations is such a fascinating subject. The birds you’ve seen here are designated Special Protection Area (SPA) features – this means that data has shown they are rare or intentionally threatened species that are actually thriving in Poole Harbour! We can celebrate this positive news and recognise the importance to protect them. These rare and threatened birds face serious challenges along their migration routes but have found a haven in our harbour and data shows us that over 20,000 migratory birds winter here between October and March!


At certain points along a birds migration they must stop over to refuel and rest. When we see these species we call them a passage migrant. The arduous migration alone would be enough to push a bird to their limits, however they face additional challenges as increasing urbanisation means increased disturbance and reclamation of flood plains removes important habitats. They also face sea level rise causing coastal squeeze and the perilous threat of hunting that still exists in many countries along their flyway. When you see a migratory bird in Poole Harbour you are witnessing a the result of persistence, instinct and tenacity! It’s a miracle of nature and something to celebrate and protect!


Poole harbour is known as a coastal lagoon made up of mudflats, saltmarsh and reedbeds. Salt marsh is boggy marshy soil that salt tolerant grasses can grow on. Reedbeds are dense areas of reeds that have grown beside the open water as they can withstand being submerged. Both these habitats provide amazing roosting (resting) areas, safely away from terrestrial predators (like hedgehogs and foxes) and us (humans and dogs are perceived as predators). The small fish that live here provide food for fish eating birds like little egrets and redshank. Mudflats and sandflats: are what you see revealed when the tide goes out. These areas are packed with marine insects, crustaceans and worms which are all nutrient dense foods for wading birds. In each layer of mud lives a different type of food source and the birds’ beaks vary in length and shape depending on what they eat and how far down in the mud they need to probe for their food.


In the winter Poole Harbour supports over 20,000 rare and protected bird species, and flocks this size are internationally important which is why it is a ‘Special Protected Area’ (SPA). These birds migrate to the UK for our warmer winters, when their breeding grounds get too cold. Take a look at the mud on a receding tide and you’ll see hundreds of birds feeding. Black tailed Godwit from Iceland, Redshank from Scandinavia and the Dark Bellied brent geese have flown as far as Arctic Siberia to feed on it! In the summer many birds migrate from countries in the southern hemisphere to breed and rear their chicks. They come here for our temperate summers and migrate south in the winter. The harbour is situated perfectly not only for summer and winter birds but passage migrants too, this is an essential stop over spot for them to rest and refuel before embarking on the rest of their migration.