The list is based on Birds in Wales (Lovegrove et al. 1994), Birds in Wales 1992-2000 (Green 2002) and the list of the Welsh Ornithological Society (Prater & Thorpe 2006) with updates from the Welsh Records Panel's annual reports. The taxonomy and scientific names follow the official list of the British Ornithologists' Union (BOU). The English names are the vernacular names used in the 7th edition of the BOU list with the standardized names from that list given in brackets where they differ. The family introductions are based on The New Encyclopedia of Birds (Perrins 2004) except where otherwise stated. The number of species in each family is approximate due to differing opinions on classification; the numbers given in the list are based on The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World, 6th edition.
Certain categories of birds are noted with the following tags:
BR British rarity - a species which occurs only as a rare visitor to Great Britain with fewer than 100 records in the last 10 years or less than 200 records ever. Records of these species are adjudicated by the British Birds Rarities Committee (BBRC).
WR Welsh rarity - a species which occurs, on average, 5 times or less each year in Wales and is not considered by the BBRC. Records of these species are adjudicated by the Welsh Records Panel of the Welsh Ornithological Society.
I Introduced - a non-native species whose presence in Wales is a result of accidental or deliberate release of birds into the wild by humans. They have either formed an established, self-sustaining breeding population in the country or have wandered from established populations in England.
The total number of species on the list is 435 including 133 British rarities, 65 Welsh rarities and 10 introduced species. About 150 species breed annually.
The swans, ducks and geese are medium to large birds that are adapted to an aquatic existence with webbed feet and bills which are flattened to a greater or lesser extent. In many ducks the male is colourful while the female is dull brown. The diet consists of a variety of animals and plants. The family is well represented in Wales, especially in winter when large numbers visit from Greenland, Scandinavia and Russia. There are about 160 species worldwide, 53 in Britain and 47 in Wales.
Grouse are sturdy, medium-sized terrestrial birds of the Northern Hemisphere. They have feathered feet and nostrils and short, rounded wings. They feed mainly on plant material and lay their eggs in a simple scrape on the ground. They are gamebirds and large numbers were shot in the past in moorland areas. There are about 19 species worldwide, 4 in Britain and 2 in Wales.
These are terrestrial species, feeding and nesting on the ground. They are variable in size but generally plump, with broad and relatively short wings. There are about 155 species worldwide with 6 in Britain and Wales. 4 of these were introduced for hunting or ornamental purposes but 2 have now apparently died out.
Divers are aquatic birds the size of a large duck, to which they are unrelated. They swim well and fly adequately but are almost hopeless on land, because their legs are placed towards the rear of the body. They feed on fish and other aquatic animals. There are 5 species worldwide with 4 in Britain and Wales. They are all non-breeding visitors in Wales.
Grebes are small to medium-large diving birds with lobed toes and pointed bills. They are seen mainly on lowland waterbodies and coasts. They feed on aquatic animals and nest on a floating platform of vegetation. There are about 19 species worldwide with 6 in Britain and Wales.
The albatrosses are among the largest flying birds with long, narrow wings for gliding. The majority are found in the Southern Hemisphere with only vagrants occurring in the North Atlantic. There are at least 13 species worldwide with 1 in Britain and Wales.
These are highly pelagic birds with long, narrow wings and tube-shaped nostrils. They feed at sea on fish, squid and other marine life. They come to land to breed in colonies, nesting in burrows or on cliffs. There are 9 species which have been recorded in Wales.
The storm petrels are the smallest seabirds, feeding on plankton and small fish picked from the surface, typically while hovering. They nest in colonies on the ground, most often in burrows. There are about 20 species worldwide, 6 in Britain and 3 in Wales.
Gannets are large seabirds that plunge-dive for fish and nest in large colonies. They have a torpedo-shaped body, long, narrow, pointed wings and a fairly long tail. There are about 10 species worldwide with 1 in Britain and Wales.
Cormorants are medium to large aquatic birds with mainly dark plumage and areas of coloured skin on the face. The bill is long, thin and sharply hooked for catching fish and aquatic invertebrates. They nest in colonies, usually by the sea.
Herons and egrets are medium to large wading birds with long necks and legs. Bitterns tend to be shorter-necked and more secretive. They all fly with their necks retracted. The sharp bill is used to catch fish, amphibians and other animals. Many species nest in colonies, often in trees.
Storks are large, heavy, long-legged, long-necked wading birds with long stout bills and wide wingspans. They fly with the neck extended. There are about 19 species worldwide with 2 occurring as vagrants in Britain and Wales.
A family of birds of prey which includes hawks, buzzards, eagles, kites and harriers. These birds have very large powerful hooked beaks for tearing flesh from their prey, strong legs, powerful talons and keen eyesight. There are about 240 species worldwide, 16 in Britain and 12 in Wales.
A large fish-eating bird of prey belonging to a family of its own. It is mainly brown above and white below with long, angled wings. It is mainly a passage migrant in Wales but has recently begun to breed.
A family of small to medium-sized, diurnal birds of prey with pointed wings. They do not build their own nests and mainly catch prey in the air. There are about 64 species worldwide, 9 in Britain and 6 in Wales.
These birds mainly occupy dense vegetation in damp environments near lakes, marshes or rivers. Many are shy and secretive birds, making them difficult to observe. Most species have strong legs and long toes which are well adapted to soft uneven surfaces. There are about 135 species worldwide, 11 in Britain and 8 in Wales.
Cranes are large, long-legged and long-necked birds. Unlike the similar-looking but unrelated herons, cranes fly with necks outstretched, not pulled back. Most have elaborate and noisy courting displays or "dances". There are about 15 species worldwide, 2 in Britain and 1 in Wales.
A family of fairly large wading birds. The avocets have long legs and long up-curved bills. The stilts have extremely long legs and long, thin, straight bills. There are about 10 species worldwide with 2 in Britain and Wales.
Medium to large seabirds with mainly grey or brown plumage, sharp claws and a hooked tip to the bill. They chase other seabirds to force them to drop their catches. There are about 7 species worldwide with 4 in Britain and Wales.
A family of seabirds which are superficially similar to penguins with their black-and-white colours, their upright posture and some of their habits but which are able to fly. There are about 23 species worldwide, 9 in Britain and 5 in Wales. Great auks are extinct.
Barn owls are medium-sized to large owls with large heads and characteristic heart-shaped faces. They have long strong legs with powerful talons. There are about 16 species worldwide with 1 in Britain and Wales.
Typical owls are small to large solitary nocturnal birds of prey. They have large forward-facing eyes and ears, a hawk-like beak and a conspicuous circle of feathers around each eye called a facial disc. There are about 199 species worldwide, 8 in Britain and 6 in Wales.
Nightjars are medium-sized nocturnal birds that usually nest on the ground. They have long wings, short legs and very short bills. Their soft plumage is cryptically coloured to resemble bark or leaves. There are about 91 species worldwide, 4 in Britain and 2 in Wales.
The swifts are small birds which spend the majority of their lives flying. These birds have very short legs and never settle voluntarily on the ground, perching instead only on vertical surfaces. There are about 100 species worldwide, 7 in Britain and 5 in Wales.
Woodpeckers are small to medium-sized birds with chisel-like beaks, short legs, stiff tails and long tongues used for capturing insects. Many woodpeckers have the habit of tapping noisily on tree trunks with their beaks. There are about 219 species worldwide, 5 in Britain and 4 in Wales.
Larks are small terrestrial birds with often extravagant songs and display flights. Most larks are fairly dull in appearance. Their food is insects and seeds. There are about 96 species worldwide, 10 in Britain and 6 in Wales.
The family Hirundinidae is adapted to aerial feeding. They have a slender streamlined body, long pointed wings and a short bill with a wide gape. There are about 83 species worldwide, 8 in Britain and 5 in Wales.
Motacillidae is a family of small passerine birds with medium to long tails. They are slender, ground-feeding insectivores of open country. There are about 66 species worldwide, 15 in Britain and 13 in Wales.
Medium-sized passerine birds with long tails. Some are notable for their ability to mimic sounds such as other birds' songs. There are about 35 species worldwide. 3 have occurred as vagrants in Britain and 1 in Wales.
The thrushes and chats are plump, soft-plumaged, small to medium-sized insectivores or sometimes omnivores, often feeding on the ground. Many have attractive songs. There are about 331 species worldwide including the chats, 42 in Britain and 29 in Wales.
Tits are mainly small, stocky, woodland species with short stout bills. They are adaptable birds, with a mixed diet including seeds and insects. There are about 59 species worldwide, 6 in Britain and 5 in Wales.
Nuthatches are small woodland birds with the unusual ability to climb down trees head-first, unlike other birds which can only go upwards. There are about 24 species worldwide, 2 in Britain and 1 in Wales.
Treecreepers are small woodland birds, brown above and white below. They have thin, pointed, down-curved bills, which they use to extricate insects from bark. There are 7 species worldwide, 2 in Britain and 1 in Wales.
Shrikes are passerine birds known for their habit of catching other birds and small animals and impaling the uneaten portions of their bodies on thorns. A typical shrike's beak is hooked, like a bird of prey. There are about 30 species worldwide, 9 in Britain and 5 in Wales.
Sparrows tend to be small, plump, brownish or greyish birds with short tails and short, powerful beaks. They are seed-eaters and they also consume small insects. There are about 38 species worldwide, 4 in Britain and 3 in Wales.
Seed-eating passerine birds that are small to moderately large and have a strong beak, usually conical and in some species very large. There are about 176 species worldwide, 21 in Britain and 16 in Wales.
A group of small, often colourful passerine birds restricted to the New World. Most are arboreal and insectivorous. There are about 118 species worldwide. 18 have occurred as vagrants in Britain and 6 in Wales.
The tanagers are a large group of small to medium-sized passerine birds restricted to the New World, mainly in the tropics. Many species are brightly coloured. There are about 226 species worldwide. 2 have occurred as vagrants in Britain and 1 in Wales.