RSPB Minsmere

Suffolk  >  United Kingdom

A superb mix of the richest lowland habitats in Europe, including reedbed, coastal lagoons, heathland and deciduous woodland, with excellent visitor facilities

Added* by Ian Barthorpe
Most recent update 5 April 2023


Minsmere has been managed by the RSPB since 1947. Its long history as a nature reserve, wide variety of habitats and excellent visitor facilites, make this the UK's best nature reserve (as voted by readers of Birdwatch magazine in 2019).

More than 5800 different species of wildlife have been recorded at Minsmere, including about 350 species of birds. Of these, more than 200 species of birds are recorded every year, and it is possibly to see 100 species on most days.

Minsmere's reedbed is the third largest freshwater reedbed in England and is home to important poputions of Great Bittern, Bearded Tit, Western Marsh Harrier, Water Rail, Cetti's Warbler, Reed Warbler and Sedge Warbler, as well as otters, water voles and rare dragonflies and moths. In most years, at least one singing Savi's Warbler is present.

Scarce herons are regular in the reedbed, including Eurasian Spoonbill, Great Egret, Cattle Egret, Purple Heron and Glossy Ibis. The UK's first ever Purple Swamphen was a popular visitor in 2016.

The famous Minsmere Scrape was the first such habitat in the world. This is a series of shallow lagoons, studded with islands, that was created in the 1960s to attract nesting terns and Avocet and migrant waders.

In spring, this is a superb area to look for breeding birds, including up to 3000 pairs of Black-headed Gull. These, in turn, attract nesting Mediterranean Gull, Common Tern, Sandwich Tern and Little Tern. Avocet first recolonised the UK at Minsmere in 1947, and up to 100 pairs nest every year.

Spring and autumn migration can attract up to 25 species of waders per day, including good numbers of Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Redshank, Common Greenshank, Green Sandpiper, Common Sandpiper and Ruff. Little Stint, Curlew Sandpiper, Wood Sandpiper and Pectoral Sandpiper are regular, while in recent years, rarities have included Marsh Sandpiper, White-rumped Sandpiper, Baird's Sandpiper, Black-winged Stilt, Red-necked Phalarope and Red Phalarope.

Other passage and migrant seabirds that are regularly enountered onthe Scrape include Arctic Tern, Roseate Tern, Little Gull, Caspian Gull and Yellow-legged Gull.

The beach and dunes are home to a wide variety of scarce plants, as well as nesting European Stonechat and Dartford Warbler. Offshore, large numbers of Red-throated Diver, Great Crested Grebe and Common Scoter may be present in winter, as well as smaller numbers of other seaducks. Pomarine Skua and Great Skua are also regular offshore in autumn.

The deciduous woodland and scrub is important for breeding Common Nightingale and warblers, including Garden Warbler, Blackcap, Greater Whitethroat, Lesser Whitethroat and Willow Warbler, as well as Common Redstart, Common Cuckoo and European Turtle Dove. Many of these species are rapidly declining in the UK and across Europe.

Rarities, such as Golden Oriole, Eurasian Wryneck, Red-backed Shrike and Wood Warbler, are annual visitors.

A large Sand Martin colony breeds next to the visitor centre and regularly attracts hunting Eurasian Hobby.

The adjacent heath is one of the easiest places in the UK to see a number of scarce habitat-specialist insects, flowers and birds. The latter include Stone-curlew, Eurasian Nightjar, Wood Lark, Dartford Warbler and European Stonechat.

The RSPB provides easy access paths, several birdwatching hides and a large visitor centre, with cafe, shop and toilets, and volunteer guides are usually present to help visitors to enjoy their visit.



Minsmere is signposted from the A12 at Yoxford and Blythburgh, and from the village of Westleton, which is 3 km away. There is a large car park, with coach parking (pre-booked coaches only) and a covered cycle rack.

There are three nature trails of between 1.5-3 km in length, and eight birdwatching hides. A map is provided in the visitor centre. Most of the nature trails and hides are accessible by wheelchair, and a mobility scooter is available to hire. The adjacent heathland is best reached by car or bicycle - ask at the visitor centre for directions.

Terrain and Habitat

Forest , Wetland , Lake , Beach , Agriculture , Scattered trees and bushes , Grassland , Moors/heathland , River , Sea , Dunes , Reedbeds


Flat , Sandy , Open landscape

Circular trail


Is a telescope useful?

Can be useful

Good birding season

All year round

Best time to visit

Spring migration , Autumn migration , Summer , Winter , Spring , Autumn


Wide path

Difficulty walking trail


Accessible by

Foot , Wheelchair , Bicycle

Birdwatching hide / platform


Extra info

The reserve is open daily, dawn to dusk, except 25 and 26 December. Entry is free to RSPB members; a charge applies to non-members. The visitor centre is open 9 am to 5 pm (or 4 pm November to January).


View other birding spots in the area that are published on Birdingplaces


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