Animals on Orford Ness

With such diverse habitats, Orford Ness attracts a wide variety of birds, mammals, moths and butterflies. Here is a selection of what you might see during your visit.


The Ness’s Brown Hares

'That's not a hare, it's a horse!' is not an uncommon cry amongst our volunteers. Scattered across the site the hares are most easy to see on the shingle bank from the top of the Bomb Ballistics Building. Be patient and look across the vegetated ridges, waiting for a sudden lolloping movement to catch your eye. If you're lucky, you'll have seen an Orford hare. Often claimed locally as a breed in their own right, the Ness's brown hares certainly tend to be bigger, fatter and healthier than their mainland cousins.

You might be lucky and spot hares playing on the shingle
Orford Ness hares playing on the shingle

Chinese water deer

Were they drawn by the memory of Chinese Labour Corps stationed on Orford Ness in the First World War? No, they just like our wet wild marshes! Escapees from ornamental deer parks, they've swum the river to a new home.

Chinese water deer on Orford Ness
Chinese water deer on Orford Ness

Marsh harrier

The characteristic bird of our grazing marshes, marsh harrier nest in the reed marsh in the King's Marsh and Airfield site. In the morning, and again in late afternoon, their slow powerful glide, interrupted by occasional wing beats, can be seen over the wet pasture.

Marsh Harrier over Orford Ness
Marsh Harrier over Orford Ness

Barn owl

Barn owls nest in a number of the old military buildings. As dusk falls their ghostly silent flight low over the grazing marsh perfectly matches the twilight mood. In the spring they are often visible hunting during daylight hours, looking for food to feed hungry young mouths.

Barn owls taking advantage of the derelect buildings on Orford Ness
Barn owls on Orford Ness

Peregrine falcon

A winter visitor, you might spot them still around early in spring or late in the autumn. They roost on ledges on our buildings, and on the transmitter aerials in the Cobra Mist site. Powerful and inspiring, the fastest living creature on earth is a thrilling sight.

Peregrine falcon on Orford Ness
Peregrine falcon on Orford Ness