Many birds feed on the large number of insects found on heathlands. Several nest on the ground or in low growing vegetation, and are very susceptible to disturbance from activity on the heath. A number of heathland areas in Hampshire/Surrey are designated as ‘Special Protection Areas’ under the European ‘Birds Directive’ because of populations of rare birds that breed on them. The following birds are examples of species which rely on heathlands:Nightjars produce an eerie ‘churring’ song at dusk. They are nocturnal birds which hunt moths and beetles. During the day they stay on the ground where they are very well camouflaged. Nightjars are summer visitors between May and October.
Woodlarks also nest on the ground and rely on areas free of vegetation to hunt for insects. They have a very melodic song in spring and join other birds in flocks to feed on fields during the winter.
Dartford warblers are small, active birds which nest in dense gorse bushes. They hunt insects on the gorse and heather and can be recognised by their characteristic ‘cocked tail’ pose and scratchy call.