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Spectacular array of animal species




Clean waters and a good supply of fish means the otter has never died out in Northumberland unlike other counties. You’ll have to be very lucky to glimpse these shy creatures. Otter footprints can sometimes be spotted in the mud of river banks. Their droppings are easily found at key marking stations, such as bridges.

Pipistrelle bats

A pipistrelle bat hangs from the rafters. Photo by John Steele.

A pipistrelle bat hangs from the rafters. Photo by John Steele.

Pipistrelle bats usually live in houses. They are found around towns and villages near wetlands, farmland and woodland. They like to feed on midges, caddisflies, mosquitoes and mayflies. Summer nursery roosts are tucked up behind exterior boarding and between the top of outside walls and the roofing. Individual bats are often found in wall crevices and behind notice boards. Winter roosts are found in all kinds of places, from trees to buildings.

Red squirrels

Now extinct in most parts of England, the red squirrel still lives in many woodlands in Northumberland such as Kielder Forest. Red Squirrels live in native broadleaved woods and in planted conifer blocks. They can not compete with the larger grey squirrel, which is spreading across the UK.

Conservationists are trying to stop grey squirrels taking over the red squirrel’s habitat. They are planting trees that provide food for red squirrels, but not grey squirrels.

If you see a red or grey squirrel please report it on Red Squirrels Northern England website.

Useful squirrel links

Water voles

Water voles mostly live in river and stream sides. They burrow into banks and feed on grasses and herbs, and occasionally invertebrates. In Britain, water voles are usually found within a few metres of water.


Barn owls

A barn owl swoops down from one of the nesting boxes in Northumberland National Park. Photo by John Steele.

A barn owl swoops down from one of the nesting boxes in Northumberland National Park. Photo by John Steele.

Look out for them in rough grassland and woodland edges where they hunt for small mammals such as voles, mice and shrews. We’re working with landowners, volunteers and contractors to put up new nest boxes near good hunting habitat. By creating more nest sites, we can increase numbers so the population can survive bad weather or low food availability.

Black Grouse

These stunning birds now only found in a few places in the north of England. They have declined significantly in Northumberland National Park. Only a few birds remain in Redesdale, Hadrian’s Wall and the Cheviots. In April and May the vigorous display of the cock birds is carried out early in the morning in woodland clearings known as ‘leks’. These have been used by the birds for generations. We will continue to improve habitats for them such as creating wet areas with their favourite food cotton grass and new native woodlands. We are also trying to link up the populations to the north and south. If you see black grouse, please e-mail us at


Britain’s largest wading bird is the logo for Northumberland National Park. Unfortunately, the Curlew is now a rarer sight than it was previously. You can hear their cries on the moors when they return in the spring. They are found on the edges of moorland. As with other waders, curlews rely on wet areas that are rich in insect food. Watch out for its distinct downward curving bill. As curlews make their nests made on the ground so it’s important to control predators such as crows and foxes. Please watch where you put your feet too!


This charming bird can be seen near fast-flowing streams and rivers. It walks or even runs around underwater in search of its invertebrate food. You may see a dipper perched on a rock, bobbing up and down, showing its white breast and cocking its tail. The dipper nests in rocky banks, under bridges, in walls or even behind waterfalls.


The merlin is Northumberland’s smallest bird of prey. It comes to breed on the heather moorlands in the spring and summer. It requires large territories to raise its young. It nests on the ground, within the heather, or even in old crows’ nests in the trees. They tend to return to the same nesting site for several years.

Red Grouse

This large plump, reddish-brown bird might surprise you when you’re walking the moors. If it’s disturbed, the Red Grouse rockets up from the heather and flies off with rapid, whirring wingbeats calling ‘go-back, go-back’. Red Grouse love to eat the young, tender shoots of heather. It is one of the few birds that stay on the moors all year round.

Ring Ouzel

A Ring Ouzel eats grubs in Northumberland National Park.

A Ring Ouzel eats grubs in Northumberland National Park.

This summer visitor spends the winter in north western Africa and southern Spain. It typically nests on heather moor and sheep walks crossed by water courses. These areas contain steep sided gullies, scree slopes or crags often with scattered trees. Territories are therefore along the sides of streams and burns.

Nest building usually occurs on the ground, in or under mature heather. Trees, bracken and derelict buildings are sometimes used as well. Adult Ring Ouzels will fly considerable distances for food. They principally feed on earthworms, but also like ants and butterfly, moth, beetle and fly larvae. From mid-summer they also eat bilberry, crowberry, hawthorn, bramble, elder, juniper and rowan berries.


These inconspicuous brown birds sound much more impressive than they may first look! In the breeding season, skylarks perform a spectacular display, soaring straight up in the air while singing a beautiful, trilling song, before folding their wings and plummeting back to the ground. Some skylarks make shallow nests on the ground in hay meadows. Others nest on grassy moorland.


Emperor Moth

The Emperor Moth is a spectacular moth throughout its life. A mature caterpillar of the Emperor Moth is lime green with yellow or orange warts, which sprout black bristles. As an adult moth, its large eye markings deters predators. It flies during the day. In May and June you can see male moths skipping over the moor at speed searching for the females that shelter within the heather.

Large Heath Butterfly

This upland butterfly is a Northumberland National Park speciality. More than 70 per cent of all sites where it lives in England and Wales are found in Northumberland. Many bogs literally swarm with this butterfly. Its caterpillars feed on cotton grass, and the adults use nectar from bog plants like cross-leaved heath and bog asphodel. Look out for them ‘dancing’ over the ground in late June and July.

Check out the Wildlife Calendar.

Connect with Northumberland National Park


Planning in the National Park

Northumberland National Park Authority is the statutory Planning Authority for the area of the Northumberland National Park. View our planning pages here.