Exploring the wildlife found in the North York Moors...

The protected landscapes of the North York Moors are havens for wildlife, despite being habitats heavily influenced by man. If you walk there your day will be enriched by the wild animals and plants around you, and knowing what to look for is a good place to start. Here are 4 animals you’re likely to see up on the moorland.

Yorkshire Coast Nature

Red Grouse

The bird that the heather moorland is managed for, the red grouse is a native of the upland heath. Males and females are brown and about the size of a small chicken. The ‘red’ in the name comes from a red bar above the eye of the male, easily seen when one is close. They eat young heather shoots and nest on the ground in older, denser heather. Walkers typically come across red grouse when they burst from their nests and fly away with a croaking call.

Yorkshire Coast Nature


Britain’s only native venomous snake, adders live and hunt in a variety of habitats, including the upper moor. They can be a range of colours, from brown to black and grey, and have a characteristic black zig-zag down their backs. As they are cold blooded, adders hibernate during the winter, and have to warm up in the sun on summer mornings before spending the day hunting. You may be lucky enough to see one sunning itself on the path, or find a discarded skin which they’ve shed. They’ll be scared and most likely slither away, but keep your distance. It’s illegal to kill adders.

Yorkshire Coast Nature


A large wading bird, curlews spend the winter by the coast hunting for creatures in the mudflats and estuaries. In the summer, many come up onto the moors to breed and raise their chicks. The curlew has a light and dark brown streaky colouring and a distinctive long curved beak, ideal for foraging in the earth. During the summer you’ll almost certainly see curlews defending their nests, and despite being listed as threatened, they are Britain’s most common wading bird.

Yorkshire Coast Nature

Short-eared owl

Although there is only a small population in the North York Moors, the short-eared owl is the owl you’re most likely to see. They like rough open country typical of moorland, and unlike other owls they hunt during the day. Look out for this brown streaky bird flying slowly only a short distance above the ground, hunting for voles. They are a medium-sized bird with two tufts of feathers on their heads which look like ears, and the females are slightly bigger than the males.

Join a guided walking weekend exploring the North York Moors.

Author: Alex Kendall

Images Courtesy of: Yorkshire Coast Nature

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