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Canal Wildlife

Britain’s rivers and canals have become a vast network providing a haven for our wildlife, including canal birds, creatures and insects. 

Our waterways are teeming with creatures waiting to be discovered and what better way to observe them than from the comfort of a slow cruising narrow boat? It may seem unusual for a man-made structure to become a natural habitat, however wildlife surveys have proved that this is the case. Even throughout the most urban of areas, these simulated wetlands attract all different kinds of wildlife, some of which you might not expect. Learn more about what canal birds and river wildlife you can spot on your next canal boat holiday.

What canal wildlife can you spot in the UK?

On your journey through the waterways, you can spot a wide range of UK wildlife – ranging from beautiful canal birds, such as Kingfishers, to badgers, bats and butterflies. 

Canal animals and creatures

  • Badgers
  • Bats
  • Bumblebees
  • Butterfly
  • Coot
  • Damselfly
  • Dormouse
  • Dragonfly
  • Frog
  • Grasshopper
  • Grass snake
  • Newt
  • Otter
  • Polecat
  • Stoat
  • Water vole

Canal birds

And of course, there is a wide variety of canalside birds you are likely to spot on your waterways adventure. Some of the canal birds you could find include:

  • Barn owl
  • Canada goose
  • Heron
  • Kestrel
  • Kingfisher
  • Mallard
  • Swan

Spotting river animals and canal wildlife on your holiday

From hedgehogs to herons, these beautiful creatures of nature provide an interesting backdrop to your holiday.  Along the towpath, you will often find nesting birds, sheltering mice, frogs, toads and then burrowing in the canal banks you might be lucky enough to spot a water vole.  As the environment allows plenty of wild plants and flowers to grow, consequently this attracts large numbers of insects, vital to the survival of the rest of the eco system surrounding the areas.

Due to this abundant food supply sustained by the canal and rivers, surveyors have been able to spot badgers, squirrels, dragonflies, grass snakes, kingfishers and bats to name a few.

In a country with an ever-expanding population and housing developments springing up in previously rural areas, these sanctuaries are fundamental to the continued existence of our wildlife and we ourselves have a commitment to protecting Britain’s waterways.  

For more information on the best UK locations for spotting rare wildlife, check out our guide. Here, it highlights which of routes are the best – including The Four Counties Ring from Blackwater Meadow Marina, and The Huntingdon Return from March Marina.

Should you like to contribute, you are welcome to add a small donation to your holiday total for the Canal and River Trust to offset the environmental impact of your holiday.