Finding wildlife in Fife

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Year of Natural Scotland 2013
Year of Natural Scotland 2013

Celebrate Scotland's natural beauty throughout 2013

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Find more about Fife with our handy brochure

  • A birdwatcher uses binoculars in Fife
    Birdwatcher, Fife
  • Ducklings on the River Leven
    Ducklings on the River Leven
  • A wildlife cruise pulls up close to cliffs at the Isle of May.
    The seabird colony on the Isle of May
  • An otter sits amongst a clump of seaweed by the shore
  • Stags at the Scottish Deer Centre, Fife
    Scottish Deer Centre, Fife

Fife's relatively small size belies the rich array of coastal habitats and species it accommodates. From the sandbanks and reed beds of the Tay Estuary in the north to the craggy bird and seal islands of the Firth of Forth in the south, the Kingdom's stunning seascapes play host to a wealth of intriguing wildlife.


Between the estuaries of rivers Tay and Eden, there is a stretch of sand and forest covering a huge area known as Tentsmuir Point National Nature Reserve. The Forestry Commission's Tentsmuir Forest is home to a number of species of bat. Towards the sea, where the shoreline has encroached on the forest floor, you can spot a vast array of wading birds on the Abertay Sands. Here, in winter, are impressive numbers of grey plover, sanderling, bar-tailed godwit, dunlin and oystercatcher.

To add to their number, thousands of pink-footed geese arrive here in the evenings to roost while numerous seaducks and seals are often visible. The sand dunes surrounding Tentsmuir Point are the preferred choice of thousands of grey and harbour seals who regularly lounge in the sun and a favourite spot for sleek otters too. Trails through Fife’s many miles of coastal grassland, like those at the Kilminning Coast reserve between the Eden and Forth estuaries, offer both a rich stomping ground for migrant seabirds as well as a prime viewing point for an occasional glimpse of pods of dolphins offshore.


Adjacent to the golfing mecca of St Andrews in north-eastern Fife, the Eden Estuary is home to significant numbers of wildfowl and waders. Here, where the River Eden meets tidal mudflats, is an observation centre where in winter you can hope to see great numbers of grey plover, oystercatcher, knot, dunlin and pink-footed geese. The estuary also holds the country's largest numbers of black-tailed godwit. In summer, large numbers of eider and shelducks can also be seen.

Isle of May

At the mouth of the Forth, off the coast of Fife's famous East Neuk, sits the jewel in Fife’s crown, the Isle of May National Nature Reserve. This reserve is a site of national importance for a large number of seabird species with a bird observatory from which significant studies are carried out. In summer, the cliffs of the island's west coast are a hive of activity. In a honeycomb of burrows in the cliff faces nest most of May's 25,000 or so breeding pairs of puffins.

The island is also increasingly important for breeding common and Arctic terns as well as one of Britain's foremost eider duck nesting sites. Later in the year, the coast of the island accommodates the biggest grey seal population on the east coast of the UK, one that has grown steadily in recent years.