Bird migration map

a hand-painted map charting some of the birds that migrate to and from the British Isles

Bird migration map – a painting of 42 species of birds that migrate to & from the British Isles

Bird migration map – a painting of 42 species of birds that migrate to & from the British Isles


An original painting in watercolour on 600gsm  100% cotton rag paper, image size 523mm x 702mm on size A1 paper. Price includes tracked and signed P&P to UK addresses. Comes to you unframed.

A2 size prints, signed by the artist. Price includes P&P to UK addresses.

A digital file of this painting is available for you to make a single print at a format and size of your choice. Read more…



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About my map of bird migration to the British Isles

In my painting “Bird migration map”, I have shown just 42 of the hundreds of species that migrate to the British Isles. I have shown, schematically, the approximate direction each species goes and when. These are not hard and fast rules. My map is intended as an aide-memoire for anyone interested in the natural world to see – at a glance – the main comings and goings of our most welcome avian guests.

This painting was featured on BBC Autumnwatch in October 2021.

Migrants welcome!

In February 2021, my friend Stephen messaged me. “…How great it would be to have some kind of graphic representation of when in the year various birds arrived and departed. It occurred to me that something like this might be ideally suited to one of your lovely paintings.” He planted the seed of an idea in my head, and it started to grow. It took me a while to work out how I was going to show it, and to narrow down a list of species to illustrate.

In spring and autumn, millions of birds migrate to and from the British Isles*. And some move within the archipelago. Some come from Europe and others travels tens of thousands of miles. For example, the bee-eater may come north from Iberia for the summer, while the swallow comes all the way from Southern Africa.

They migrate for many reasons. Overwintering birds come here to escape the harsh dark and cold further north – geese, waders, divers, ducks. Summer visitors come to breed, knowing they’ll be able feast on the summer bounty airborne insects – think swifts and warblers. Discover more about bird migration.

How do birds know where to migrate to?

Science is still trying to work out exactly how the birds ‘know’ where to go and when to go there. In most cases, day length appear to the be cue that sets the birds off. It is thought that some species are born with an innate endogenous ability to know where to go – a kind of mental map. Other species need to ‘learn’ the migration routes, accompanying their parents and siblings on their first journey. And it may be a combination of these factors. In my painting I have illustrated the main means that it is thought that the birds use: Earth’s magnetic field, the position of the sun, moon and stars, including Polaris, the Pole Star.

What’s not on my bird migration map

Much as I would like to have done, I couldn’t possibly fit all the birds that come to and from the British Isles on my bird migration map. I know there are glaring omissions. The nightingale is left out because I was looking for distinctive species to show. Nightingales are a small brown bird and don’t wear snazzy costumes; they don’t need to with such a gorgeous song. And warblers. So many warblers! Reed warblers, grasshopper warblers, garden warblers, willow warblers, chiffchaffs, etc. Many of them look very, very similar. I chose one warbler to represent them all, the sedge warbler, because I see them every summer, and I love their bonkers song.

*The British Isles

I have used the term “British Isles” as a geographic term to describe the archipelago that lies off the north west coast of continental Europe. It consists of two sovereign nations: 1. the Republic of Ireland, and 2. the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland. I use the term “British Isles” in an entirely non-political way. The birds know nothing of history and politics – they see only opportunity, safety and place to make a living.

In my world, migrants are always welcome!

Birds turn up in my paintings all the time. Have a look!

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