10 best places to see a kingfisher in the UK

Visit one of these locations for the chance to see a kingfisher. 


To spot kingfishers, patience and planning are key. They are actually widespread and fairly common in Britain, though scarcer in Scotland. But despite this, they can often be elusive birds.

Going for a stroll by the water is not the best strategy for a kingfisher sighting. Instead it is a good idea to wait in a hide or among bankside vegetation. At some nature reserves you can even see these lovely birds from the windows of the main visitor centre.

Kingfishers also give themselves away with their ‘peep peep’ call. Listen out for this high-pitched piping – and quickly scan in all directions if you hear it. Birds often call in alarm or as they are flying past, low over the water.

Kingfishers love clear, still or slow-moving water with reeds or bulrushes in the shallows. They also love to perch in overhanging willows or alders on the banks, where they preen their plumage or dive for fish. They are often spotted where drainage ditches, culverts or streams join a larger waterway.

Many British rivers, canals, streams, lakes and gravel pits have kingfishers, even in urban areas. Here we have picked 10 of the best nature reserves for a sighting – but plenty of other wetland reserves have kingfishers too.

Note: you need a Schedule 1 Licence to photograph kingfishers at or near the nest, because they are easily disturbed during the breeding season.

1 Attenborough Nature Reserve, Nottinghamshire (Nottinghamshire Wildlife Trust)

2 Fowlmere, Cambridgeshire (RSPB)

3 Lackford Lakes, Suffolk (Suffolk Wildlife Trust)

4 London Wetland Centre (Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust)

5 Mere Sands Wood, Lancashire (Lancashire Wildlife Trust)

6 Wisley Gardens, Surrey (Royal Horticultural Society)

7 Rye Meads, Hertfordshire (RSPB)

8 Staveley Nature Reserve (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust)

9 Strumpshaw Fen, Norfolk (RSPB)

10 Tophill Low and Potteric Carr (Yorkshire Wildlife Trust)

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