Sherwood’s Birds

Home to native species and seasonal visitors, there are so many feathered friends to spot.

In the late winter and early spring, listen out for our resident woodpeckers drumming; in summer, enjoy song from the nuthatch, the garden and willow warblers, and the unmistakeable call of the cuckoo.


Where to look

The rich and diverse bird life is all around – nightjars and woodlarks live on the heaths on our Budby reserve to the north of Sherwood Forest; woodcocks, tawny owls, green, great spotted and lesser spotted woodpeckers, stock doves, jackdaws, jays, nuthatches, treecreeper, marsh tits and goldcrests can all be found in the woodland.

The more open areas have tree pipits, redstarts and spotted flycatchers in spring and summer. Listen carefully to pick out a chiffchaff, singing its eponymous song, or a willow warbler. Look out for jays and redwings in autumn.

Redstart Phoenicurus phoenicurus, male standing on old piece of bark on silverbirch tree

Common Redstart

Budby Forest South provides the perfect setting  for a very special and rare bird – the nightjar.

Known for their distinctive churring call, they are perfectly camouflaged against the heathland they occupy, with mottled brown and black markings. As darkness falls, the male bird calls in a distinctive, low, constant ‘churr’.

We are restoring historic open habitats and softening woodland edges to create the perfect conditions for these beguiling birds to thrive.

These conditions are also going to benefit iconic heathland species like tree pipits and woodlarks.

Nightjar at Sherwood Forest (Copyright RSPB)

Year round residents

Click on each bird name below to see an illustration and play a snippet of their song from the RSPB website.

Easiest to see from spring onwards in the evening. The males have a display flight known as ‘roding’ from before dusk when they can be easy to see.
Find an open area of Budby South Forest with good views over the heath and arrive an hour before dusk. Listen for the squeaky call of the males.

Lesser spotted woodpecker
February and March can be good times to hear and see birds drumming. The Major Oak trail by Major Oak is one of the best places to look.
Listen and look for drumming birds on dead trees or the dead branches in the crowns of live trees.

Marsh tit
Birds are loyal to favourite locations throughout the year. The Major Oak trail where it crosses the bridleway is one of the best places.
Listen for the call that sounds like someone sneezing.

Summer migrants

These are species that are usually present from April/May until August/September:

Birds return to breeding areas on the heath from February onwards. Look and listen from the pathways.
Familiarise yourself with the song so you can pick out singing males hovering high over the heath in their display flight.

In evenings from late May to early September on the heath. Look and listen from the pathways.
The strange song of the male, known as churring, is unmistakable once heard.

Birds return to the woodland from mid-April onwards. The Greenwood Trail and the Wildwood Trail other the best chances of hearing/seeing birds where they pass through the cattle grazing enclosures.
Males often sing from the tops of silver birches and oaks. Check low branches over open areas as redstarts like to perch and then drop on the ground to feed.

Tree pipit
Birds return to breeding areas on the heath from mid-April onwards. Look and listen from the pathways. Some birds in the woodland but becoming scarcer there.
Singing males will sit atop bushes/trees and fly up in a song flight and glide back down in a parachute display, which is very distinctive.

Spotted flycatcher
Can be unobtrusive and difficult to find. The Major Oak trail is as good as anywhere to look.
Listen for the squeaky call and watch for birds flying out from perch over a path/open area to catch insects.

What to listen out for

Listen to the songs of some of the other birds in our poll at the top of our page by clicking on their names. You’ll find lots of fascinating facts too.







Top Birdwatching tips

Want to know how best to get a glimpse of birds at Sherwood and Budby?

Here’s some very handy advice from our experts:

  • Keep noise to a minimum
  • Early mornings in spring and summer are often better when birds sing. There is also a dusk chorus.
  • It’s harder to find many species in late summer when trees are in full leaf and some species become less obvious when breeding and when young have fledged.
  • It’s always exciting to see a scarce but think about how your behaviour may be affecting the bird. Our advice is look but don’t linger.
  • Follow the Birdwatchers Code
  • Knowing bird song helps in location birds, especially when they are hidden in the woodland canopy. Books on learning bird song are available in the shop at the Visitor Centre.  The RSPB website also has more information on each species and recordings of songs.

We also need to ensure the birds are disturbed as little as possible, so we recommend:

  • Stay on paths and tracks. This minimises disturbance and accidently stepping on nests of ground-nesting birds
  • Mind the Gap – think about how close you are to bird and if you’re disturbing it. Signs of disturbance are the bird flying away and/or giving repeated alarm calls.
  • If you have a dog, please keep in under close control in the woodland and on a lead no longer than 2 m on Budby South Forest between 1 March and 31 July. See
  • Don’t play birds’ calls and songs to attract them as this can prevent them from feeding themselves and young.
  • Don’t damage vegetation to see a bird better or get a better photograph
  • If you are lucky enough to find the nest of one of these species, please let reserve staff know and keep it to yourself. It’s tempting to share news and pictures on social media and/or just between a few people but that could cause the nest to fail.
  • If you see any behaviour that could be causing disturbance, please let reserve staff know.