Author: David White, Visitor Experience Officer, Lakenham Fen

Here in Cambridgeshire and the surrounding Fens we are lucky enough to provide a home to a wide variety of rare nesting birds. Thanks to fantastic conservation work across the county, our reedbeds are famed for their bitterns, marsh harriers and bearded tits; the UK’s fast disappearing turtle dove population continues to hang on thanks to wildlife friendly arable farming in the area; and did you know that Cambridgeshire’s wetlands also provide a lifeline to another special bird?


At this time of year, black-tailed godwits are looking their best with a brick red breast, mottled back and a long, mostly orange beak. Around 46 pairs of the limosa race of this species nest at RSPB Nene Washes each year and whilst that probably doesn’t sound like many, this handful of birds are an astounding 90% of the British breeding population.  


Black tailed-godwits are a picky bunch, and will only nest in a habitat called ‘wet grassland’ (it does what it says on the tin!), which is a rare and threatened habitat in Britain.

Black-tailed godwits in flight. Credit: Chris Gomersall (RSPB)


This species first nested in Britain at RSPB Ouse Washes in 1952, and the Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire have since been creating new areas of wet grassland to encourage this species to nest in the area once again.


To make our small black-tailed godwit population feel more at home in the county, the RSPB is currently restoring a 260 hectare area of wet grassland known as March Farmers which sits right next to Nene Washes nature reserve. This is the largest wet grassland restoration project in Britain, making Cambridgeshire the centre of the conservation of one of the UK’s rarest breeding birds! We are hoping that our work at March Farmers will nearly double the UK population of black-tailed godwits in the coming years.

Although the black tailed godwit is not necessarily the most well known nesting bird in the area, it is a very important part of our local wildlife and a bit of a beauty to boot! Why not head over to RSPB Nene Washes to try to see one of these scarce and beautiful birds for yourself?

For more information about RSPB Nene Washes and to plan a visit:

Keep in touch: