Every place on Earth has certain species you won’t find anywhere else. While it might seem that there aren’t a lot of interesting animals in the UK, the truth is much different from that. There are many interesting native species in Britain, some very rare indeed. Have a look below at ten of these reptiles, birds, fish, amphibians, and mammals that can be found on Great Britain and Ireland.
Fair Isle Wren
A subspecies of wren found only on Fair Isle, Shetland, Scotland. In appearance, it’s darker and larger than mainland wren species, though not as large as its cousin, the Shetland Wren. Being limited to Fair Isle, it is an extremely rare species and the population is tiny, maybe 10 to 50 pairs. They breed only on boulder beaches on the island.
Found all over the UK and in parts of Europe, the slow worm is often mistaken for a snake when it is really a legless lizard. They can grow up to 40 cm long and the females often have a black stripe while the males can sometimes sport blue spots. Odd for a reptile, the slow worm gives birth to live young.
With its ginger fur and taller ears, the red squirrel is physically distinctive from its American counterpart, the Eastern Gray Squirrel. Found in Britain, Europe, and Russia, its coat actually changes to a grayer colour during winter. While once very prominent in the UK, its numbers are dwindling as it competes for habitats and food with its gray cousins from North America.
Like the Fair Isle Wren, the Skomer Vole takes its name from the only place where it can be found, on Skomer island in Pembrokeshire, Wales. Despite being one of only four mammalian species found on the island, there are at least 20,000 of the voles there. With predators including buzzard, kestrels, and hawks, the voles are lucky if they see their full 18-month lifespan.
Preferring sandy areas, it looks like a common toad but with a yellow stripe down the spine, plenty of obvious spots and warts, and a golden yellow iris with horizontal pupils. In Britain, the toad is a threatened species that has seen its numbers dwindle thanks to human overpopulation. As such, its sand dune habitat is protected by several National Nature Reserves.
A freshwater whitefish found only in the Lake District, they mainly inhabit the Brothers Water, Haweswater, Red Tarn, and Ullswater over a 20 square kilometer area. In Haweswater, the population has been threatened by visiting cormorants, which fishery officers are killing selectively in order to keep the species’ numbers stable.
While wildcats are not unknown to Europe, this particular species mostly inhabits Scotland and northern parts of England and Wales. Recently, conservationists have been become more concerned with protecting the species as they have been crossbreeding with domestic cats, threatening to diminish the original species. In July of this year, the Wildcat Haven project announced it has been working to neuter many of the hybrid and feral cats in the areas roamed by the Scottish wildcat to ensure that the species breeds within its own community.
St. Kilda Field Mouse
Arriving on Viking longboats almost 1,000 years ago, this particular species found on the Scottish archipelago of St. Kilda. Its cousin, the St. Kilda House Mouse, is now extinct after the last permanent human residents moved from St. Kilda in 1930. While the House Mouse could not survive without the grains provided by the human habitants, the Field Mouse did not suffer as greatly and still populates the archipelago.
Another species found in the Lake District, the pine marten is related to the weasel and is rarely seen during the day, preferring to sleep in its dens underground. They mostly hunt at night and possess sharp claws with which to climb trees and a fur coat that permits them to continue hunting in winter rather than hibernate.
Choosing to live mostly near rivers and ponds, the water rail is a secretive bird that likes to hide in dense marsh. They are a swimming bird, a quality that enables them to find food both on land and water. Their diet can include berries, shrimp, snails, frogs, roots, watercress, and small birds.