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  • Writer's pictureMartha Edwards

Exploring the Unique Wildlife of British Beaches

Updated: Apr 28, 2023

The UK is home to a wide variety of wildlife, and its beaches are no exception. From limpets and shells to crabs and seagulls, there is a wealth of wildlife to be found on British beaches. Not only do these creatures provide us with an interesting view of the natural world, but they also play an important role in the ecosystem. In this article, we'll take a look at some of the most common wildlife species that can be found on UK beaches and seas.

Exploring the Diversity of Wildlife on British Beaches

British beaches are incredibly diverse in wildlife due to the many different coastal environments that can be found in the UK. There are over 1200 species of wildlife that make their home on our beaches, on rocks, rockpools, in the sea and under the sand itself.

Discovering the Common Species of Birds & Marine Creatures Found on Beaches in the UK

Here we have listed some of the most common species that you can find in the coastal habitats of the UK; the sandy beaches, cliffs and rock pools.

1. Seals

Seals are a common sight on the shores of the UK, with several species making their home here including the common seal and the grey seal.

It's best not to disturb seals but if you come across one that is injured then make sure is it not crowded by people or dogs and phone your local rescue centre for help.

The Cornish Seal Sanctuary is a charity that rescues and rehabilitates grey seal pups from around the Cornish coastline, saving over 70 seal pups per year and also providing a permanent home to animals that need special care from their team of marine animal experts.

Check out our Seal Jewellery here

2. Whales

Perhaps surprisingly, whales are fairly common around British coasts and are sometimes spotted from boats or cliffs making spectacular displays in the sea.

Minke whales, Fin whales and even Long-finned pilot whales sometimes come close to the shore, especially in deeper water areas.

Take a look at some wonderful whale jewellery here. The best areas in the UK to spot whales are The Isle of Skye, The Shetland Islands, Whitby, Yorkshire and Penzance, Cornwall, and the most sightings are between April and November.

3. Dolphins

Another member of the Cetacea family, dolphins are an offshore species but frequently come close to shore to feed.

They are highly social and are normally found swimming and leaping in groups. They are known for being playful and have even joined groups of surfers in Cornwall swimming in the surf, although the question of whether the dolphins were searching for that perfect wave or attempting to catch fish remains unanswered! Seaside Jewellery has a fantastic selection of dolphin jewellery.

4. Basking Sharks

Surfers may get a fright if they spot one of these magnificent creatures in the sea near to them, but these sharks are gentle giants, only eating plankton.

Basking sharks can be spotted in Cornwall due to the water clarity and also the North of Scotland. They are the second largest living shark after the Whale shark, reaching up the 12m in length!

5. Jellyfish

A beautiful sight in the water, perhaps not so much on the beach where they become stranded as the tide goes out.

A few species of Jellyfish in the UK sting, including the compass jellyfish which feels like a nettle sting and the Lion's mane jellyfish which gives a nasty sting that may need medical attention. Although not technically jellyfish, Portuguese Man-o-War sometimes frequent British shores and although they look beautiful they also sting. The best thing to do if you are stung is to go the the RNLI Lifeguards who will provide First Aid; if there are no lifeguards then vinegar is reportedly a good remedy.

6. Crab

The Shore Crab is the most common crab on UK beaches and can often be found hiding in rockpools. They are dark green or brown and different from the larger Edible crabs (Brown Crabs) that fishermen catch from deeper waters.

7. Mussels

The common mussel, often known as the blue mussel, is a common sight on beaches throughout the United Kingdom and is a favourite food of seagulls and starfish as well as people!

Mussels can be foraged in the UK but only between October and March; if you are planning a mussel foraging trip then be sure to check the tide times and also any local regulations.

Whether you are keen on eating mussels or not, check out our range of mussel jewellery!

8. Sea Anemones

These alien like creatures look like plants but are actually animals and are related to jellyfish. Brightly coloured examples can be found in UK rockpools, including red and yellow. It's best to look and not touch as they are very delicate creatures and can also sting.

These red crystal rose gold plated earrings are reminiscent of sea anemones and have a pendant to match

9. Starfish

The common starfish is found on all British coasts, in rockpools and at sea. They feed on prey on bivalves like mussels and clams and are active predators. They move using their tube feet and have the amazing ability to regenerate lost limbs. Starfish consume their prey by opening the shells with their arms, inserting their own stomach within, and then dissolving and reabsorbing their prey! If you love the symmetrical look of starfish, take a look at Seaside Jewellery's Starfish Collection.

10. Gannets

The graceful gannet can be seen circling in the air diving to spear fish in a wonderful display. Gannets are large and bright white with black wingtips and a distinctive shape. Gannets are on the Amber List for conservation because they only breed in large quantities in a small number of locations. British coasts are the best place in the world to see Northern gannets, with over half of the world’s population nesting here. The best locations are Longhaven Cliffs (Aberdeenshire), Skomer (Pembrokeshire) and Flamborough Cliffs (Yorkshire)

11. Puffins

The puffin's colourful, parrot-like bill makes it easy to identify. Every year, thousands of puffins spend the winter at sea before coming back to the UK to build their nests. Puffins are loyal to their partners, laying just one egg each year and raising the chick with the same bird. Fun fact: Baby puffins are called pufflings! Check out this puffin pendant which also has matching earrings.

12. Seagulls

The most common seagull in the UK is the Herring gull. They are large gulls which are found throughout the year around British coasts. They provide a noisy soundtrack in the mornings and evenings in many coastal towns and are notorious for swooping in and taking the ice creams or Cornish pasties of unsuspecting tourists!

13. Seaweed

There are over 600 native species of seaweed in the UK and it is an important food source and part of the beach ecosystem. Seaweed is revealed when the tide goes out or washed up in rough seas and can be foraged for food or garden fertiliser. Check out our article on seaweed here: Seaweed on the Beaches (

14. Limpets

Common limpets can be seen tightly fastened to the side of rocks in rockpools and on beach rocks. Despite their unimpressive appearance at first glance, they immediately go into action when the tide comes in, moving around rocks and using their strong tongue to consume algae. The Limpet's tongue is perhaps surprisingly the world’s strongest known biological structure! Limpets are also long lived with a lifespan of 10-20 years! Take a look at our limpet jewellery here.

Final Thoughts

From the rocky shores of Cornwall to the sandy beaches of Norfolk, each beach has its own unique wildlife that can be seen up close and personal. From observing seabirds in flight to discovering different species of marine life, exploring British beaches can be an exciting adventure.

Wildlife on British Beaches: FAQs

What Kind of Wildlife can be Found on British Beaches?

British beaches are home to a wide variety of wildlife, including seals, seabirds, crabs, starfish, and jellyfish.

Are There any Endangered Species that can be Found on British Beaches?

Yes, there are several endangered species that can be found on British beaches, such as the Harbour porpoise, Atlantic puffin, Common Eider duck and the Little Tern. Very rarely the leatherback turtle visits UK waters to feed on jellyfish.

What is The Best Time to Spot Wildlife on British Beaches?

The best time to spot wildlife on British beaches is usually early morning or late afternoon, when the tide is low and the animals are more active.

How can I Safely Observe Wildlife on British Beaches?

To safely observe wildlife on British beaches, it's important to keep a safe distance, avoid disturbing nesting birds or marine mammals, and follow any local regulations or guidelines.

What can I Do to Help Protect the Wildlife on British Beaches?

You can help protect the wildlife on British beaches by picking up any litter or plastic waste, avoiding disturbing nesting birds or marine mammals, and supporting local conservation efforts. Learn more about the significant threat posed by microplastics here: Microplastics: Human Activity and Wildlife on Beaches (

What are Some of the Unique Adaptations that Wildlife on British Beaches have Developed?

Wildlife on British beaches have developed unique adaptations such as camouflage, burrowing behaviour, and the ability to tolerate extreme temperatures and saltwater.

Can I go Rockpooling on British beaches?

Yes, rockpooling is a popular activity on many British beaches, where you can discover a variety of marine life such as crabs, starfish, and anemones. Take a look at our guide here: A Guide to Rockpooling (


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