The Top 10 Rarest Birds in the UK and Their Pair Numbers

We are lucky enough to have some truly unique birds here in the UK and some that are so rare most of us will probably never see one in our lives, let alone a pair of them. These are the ten rarest birds in the UK, but that doesn’t mean their numbers aren’t thriving elsewhere in the world. So let’s get our bird watching binoculars out and see if we can spot one of these super rare birds…


Honey Buzzard
Honey Buzzard

10 – European honey buzzard (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 30)

This bird of prey is also known as a common pern and it’s closely related to kites. This wasp-eating bird has a wing-span of 130 cm and is easy to tell apart because the male has a blue-grey head, while the female’s head is brown.

Spotted Crake

9 – Spotted Crake (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 20)

This small waterbird is a member of the Rallidae family (small- to medium-sized ground-living birds). Its often found living in tall marshland which sadly does make it even hard to find and indeed count.

White-Tailed Eagle

8 – White-Tailed Eagle (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 10)

This large bird of prey is a member of the Accipitridae family which means it has a strongly hooked bill and variable morphology based on its diet. This is one of those birds that isn’t all that rare, but to see one here in the UK is very rare indeed.

Temminck’s Stint

7 – Temminck’s Stint (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 10)

This small wader bird (because it wades in order to forage for food) it sometimes seen in the Scotish Islands, but this is often just used as a stopover point and would be very rare to see.

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Wood Sandpiper

6 – Wood Sandpiper (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 10)

This small wader is one of the worlds smallest species of the shank and is hard to count because it resembles a close relative the longer-legged solitary sandpiper. But for those in the know, there are easier to spot differences than their leg lengths.


5 – Fieldfare (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 10)

This member of the thrush family is a small woodland bird who is strongly migratory native to the UK bird which means there is a lot of them, but they are rare to see here in the UK, but their numbers are quite high.

Purple Sandpiper

4 – Purple Sandpiper (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 10)

The purple sandpiper (Calidris maritima) is a small shorebird that gets its scientific name from the Latin meaning “of the sea” and it gets that name thanks to its long miraging path which can often seem as if they are simply coming out of the sea.


3 – Ruff (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 10)

This medium-sized wading bird lives in marshes and tall wet meadows which again does make it hard to count. The male is a little easier to spot thanks to its plumage that includes brightly coloured head tufts and its bare orange facial skin.

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Red-Backed Shrike

2 – Red-Backed Shrike (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 5)

This carnivorous passerine birds scientific name is “Lanius collurio” which is derived from the Latin word for “butcher” meaning this bird is also known as a “butcher bird” because of its feeding habits.

Red-Necked Grebe

1 – Red-Necked Grebe (Estimated Number of Pairs: Less Than 5)

This migratory aquatic bird is often found in the northern hemisphere and prefers calm sea waters or lakes. While their numbers worldwide are not a concern it is very rare to see one here in the UK.

Author: Gus Barge

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