Peregrine falcon Falco peregrinus, perched on hotel roof, Manchester city centre

Cardiff's wildlife

Despite being a modern urban city, Cardiff is home to a surprising amount of wildlife. Why not discover the wildlife you share your city with?

Swifts

Screaming into Cardiff all the way from Africa, swifts are a fantastic summer highlight across the city.

Spot them charging across rooftops looking for nest sites and feeding on flying insects from June to July around dusk and early morning.

Feeding, sleeping and even mating in flight, swifts spend almost their entire life on the wing - landing only to nest. Recorded flying at over 65mph, swifts are true aerial acrobats. With scythe-like wings and a short, forked tail, they're plain sooty brown but appear black against the sky.

They spend their winters in Africa and migrate to the UK each summer to breed. We know hundreds are nesting in Cardiff, with a stronghold in Ely, but whilst swifts fly at such speed it can be tricky to spot where they finally land and build a nest.

Swifts usually nest in roof spaces and will return to the same nest year after year. Research has shown that some nest sites have been in continuous use by generations of swifts for over 100 years; something to be aware of when planning a new roof or any building work as swifts are now of conservation concern.

They need our help since their breeding numbers have plummeted, so if you know where there's a swift nest in Cardiff please tell us where you've seen it.

We're pleased to announce Jenny Rathbone AM is also a Species Champion for swifts and working closely with the RSPB to champion the needs of swifts within her Central Cardiff constituency and beyond.

Close up of a swift flying

Rare and champion trees

Cardiff is home to an exceptional number of rare and champion trees as well as some stunning historic tree avenues planted in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

The spectacular avenue of elms and limes in Pontcanna Fields is one example, planted in 1879-80 but added to more recently as part of Cardiff's designation as European City of the Elm.

Champion trees are recognised as the tallest or broadest examples of their species anywhere in the UK and Cardiff's fantastic Bute Park is home to the highest number of champion trees in any UK public park; around 40 champion trees in total, from the amazing purple foxglove tree to the 150 year old hybrid wingnut, with its giant garlands of seeds.

In total Bute Park is home to over 3000 trees including a number of rare trees, defined by there being less than 250 other examples in the UK. You can discover them using Bute Park's tree trails or search further for urban tree treasure into Parc Cefn Onn and Victoria and Roath Park, home to the rare and beautiful butterfly maple, tree of heaven and champion nettle tree.

Birch (Betula), grasses & rushes at the edge of a small clearing at Culbin forest, Scotland

Bats

We're lucky enough to have 17 bat species breeding in the UK, of which 11 have been recorded in Cardiff.

Roosting in trees, buildings, caves and under bridges across the city, the most common species you're likely to see are pipistrelles and noctule bats. Flying over the city's rivers and Cardiff Bay, Daubenton's bats can also be found as they feed on flying insects above the water.

The lesser horseshoe bat, one of the rarest and smallest bat species in the UK, roosts in Lesser Garth Cave and St Fagan's National History Museum. Feeding on midges, moths, beetles and spiders, the lesser horseshoe has declined nationally in both population and distribution, but in Cardiff there are a number of protected roost sites for this threatened species.

If you fancy getting to know more about bats in the city check out the Cardiff Bat Group or head for a guided bat walk at St Fagan's National History Museum and keep your eye out for lesser horseshoes!

Common Pipistrelle Bat hunting at twilight, Pipistrellus pipistrellus, Berwickshire, Scotland

Otters

Otters are known to frequent all of Cardiff's rivers from the Ely and Taff to the Rhymney. They've even been spotted in Cardiff Bay. It's a really good sign that otters are around the city's rivers and bay as they indicate a healthy ecosystem.

Shy and nocturnal mammals, otters mainly feed on fish, but their diet can also include birds, small mammals, amphibians, crustaceans (shell fish) and molluscs.

They rest and breed in underground holts or in dense riverbank vegetation and with large territories, sometimes up to 40km along a river, we’re often more likely to find an otter's spraint than the otter themselves.

Spraint are the very fishy smelling droppings otters leave in obvious places such as on large boulders in the water. If you see such a boulder in the Ely, Taff or Rhymney that you can imagine an otter going to the loo on, it’s always worth having a look for spraint. You never know your luck!

Due to their elusive nature, if you do spot an otter in Cardiff or want to find out more about them check out the Otter Project: a long term study of otters in the UK run by Cardiff University.

European otter Lutra lutra, swimming alongside river bank, Norfolk, England

Bluebells

Cardiff's Coed y wenallt to the north of the city is one of the best places to see bluebells in south Wales.

Formerly a hill fort with extensive views across Cardiff and the Severn Estuary, Coed y wenallt is now a nature reserve and a fantastic place to discover badger setts, spot buzzards and listen out for woodpeckers drumming in the trees.

In spring the ancient woodland floor becomes a spectacular carpet of purple as bluebells take over and can be enjoyed via the network of footpaths that run through the woodland.

When you get up close to bluebells see too if you can spot whether they're British or not. Spanish bluebells are non-native but common in the UK.

They're a threat to the native British bluebell as they can hybridise with it and change it forever. The easiest way to tell the difference between native British and non-native Spanish bluebells is to look at the colour of the pollen. If it’s creamy-white then the bluebell is native. If it’s any other colour then it's not native.

Bluebell, Hyacinthoides non-scripta in flower at The Lodge RSPB Reserve

Peregrines

Peregrines like to nest in high, undisturbed places and Cardiff's City Hall clock tower is an ideal location.

Perched on the clock tower they can easily spot the birds they prey on. From thrushes to pigeons, peregrines have been recorded flying at over 100mph to catch their prey!

Traditionally found nesting on cliffs in mountainous areas and along the coast, peregrines are now not uncommon in cities too. A pair of peregrines have nested and successfully reared chicks on Cardiff’s City Hall clock tower for a number of years.

As peregrines normally stay together for life, it's likely that the pair on the clock tower are the same two birds each year. The female usually lays three to four eggs and the chicks leave the nest after about six weeks, so if you fancy seeing a young peregrine taking its first flight, keep an eye on the City Hall clock tower around May when the young typically fledge.

Peregrine perched on a branch in front of cliff face, Scotland UK