Bee-eaters to eagle: Rare birds spotted in Norfolk and Waveney in 2021

Rare deer and other animals and birds are now on show at Watatunga - a new nature reserve at Watling

A white stork is one of the rare birds spotted in Norfolk this year - Credit: Chris Bishop

Norfolk and Waveney is fortunate to have a huge diversity of flora and fauna across its wide range of habitats.

For our feathered friends, the region is an attractive destination for a large number of bird species which travel here at various points throughout the year.

This year has seen a number of unlikely visitors spotted in the area. 

White blackbird

Sarah Empson, 42, spotted a white blackbird while on a walk with her two daughters, Leela, eight, and Zoe, six in...

An albino blackbird was spotted in Norwich in February - Credit: Sarah Empson

In February a woman spotted a white blackbird hopping around Norwich.

Sarah Empson, 42, was walking in the city with her two daughters when she saw the unusual bird perched on a drainpipe at St Edmunds Church in Fishergate.

It turned out Ms Empson had found an albino blackbird, which while not a rare species, was still an uncommon sighting. 

The bird likely had a condition called partial albinism which is usually inherited.

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Later on in May a kittiwake became stuck in netting which had been installed on a Lowestoft building.

Kittiwakes only have two colonies in Suffolk and are categorised as red under the Birds of Conservation Concern list. 

The bird, which is as endangered as giant pandas, had to be rescued by firefighters. 

Concerns had been raised about the dangers posed by the netting by television presenter Chris Packham after three birds had previously got stuck and died. 

Following the two incidents, BT, which owns the property, removed the netting to allow more kittiwakes to nest.


A retail park in Great Yarmouth drew hundreds of spectators in June when a flock of colourful European bee-eaters were spotted.

Bee-eaters winter in Africa and are normally found nesting in southern Europe but on this occasion nine were spotted resting in a bush near a McDonald's in the coastal town.

Bird enthusiasts who had travelled to the location said they were "stunned and amazed" to see so many in one place.

This is the largest flock ever seen in Norfolk and many people had gathered with thousands of pounds worth of camera equipment to capture the moment.

Bee-eaters like to nest on sandy banks and spend their days perched on wires catching bees.

White stork

Rare deer and other animals and birds are now on show at Watatunga - a new nature reserve at Watling

A white stork is one of the rare birds spotted in Norfolk this year - Credit: Chris Bishop

White storks have not been seen breeding in Britain since the 15th century but in June this year one was spotted in Bawsey near King's Lynn.

Julie Smart, a keen wildlife photographer, saw it in a field of horses on her way to work.

Mrs Smart said: "I've never seen one, it was absolutely marvellous," she said. "I take a lot of wildlife pictures but I've never seen a stork. Apparently it's so rare, the birdwatchers were saying it's the first one they've seen all year."

The large bird likely travelled from Holland or another nearby European country and is a rare site in the region.

Conservationists at the Watatunga Wildlife Reserve are hoping to breed white storks at its site near King's Lynn.

White-tailed eagle

Rare eagle spotted near King's Lynn

The white-tailed Eagle were successfully reintroduced to Isle of Wight and have since been spotted flying over southern and eastern England - Credit: Julie Smart

Mrs Smart had a successful year with her bird-spotting escapades, as she later spotted a white-tailed eagle in August.

The rare bird of prey was seen resting in a tree in Roydon Common, near King's Lynn, and sat there for more than an hour before flying off in search of breakfast. 

Rare eagle spotted in King's Lynn

The bird was seen flying over Roydon Common looking for prey - Credit: Julie Smart

The white-tailed eagle disappeared from our shores in the 1700s but a successful reintroduction in the Isle of Wight has meant they have been spotted flying across southern and eastern England. 

According to Paul Stancliffe, of the British Trust for Ornithology, the incredibly rare eagle is one of the largest birds you're likely to spot flying over East Anglia.

As we head into winter, Norfolk is about to be visited by a number of different bird species.

While not rare, sightings of bramblings, pink-footed geese, whooper swans and blackcaps are always a pleasure to see in the county.

At Winterton beach, a small colony of snow bunting can be found, providing a great opportunity to spot these hardy northern songbirds.

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