More Water Rails than we thought!

Water Rails are secretive birds whose breeding status in Berkshire has been difficult to establish. In the Atlas surveys of 2008-2011, Water Rails were confirmed to have bred in only five tetrads, with probable breeding in a further three. All but one of these sites were in the Kennet valley between Hungerford and Padworth.

Following a successful pilot breeding survey in 2016, in 2017 a team of surveyors monitored suitable habitat in twenty tetrads along the Kennet, the Loddon and part of the Thames.   A total of twenty five Water Rail territories were found in ten of the tetrads.  Clearly, Water Rails are more abundant than we thought.

The map below shows the areas surveyed in 2016 and 2017 in purple, territories as red dots and downy young as black dots. It is planned to extend the survey to suitable areas along the Blackwater, Pang and Lambourn in 2018.

All breeding season records, from anywhere in Berkshire, will add to the dataset – please submit via  or send them to with a six figure grid reference and a note of the habitat.