While some of our nature settles down or takes off elsewhere when the cold sets in, a whole new host of nature brings life across our landscapes. RSPB Scotland’s Allie McGregor tells us about 5 of our winter waders.

Five winter waders to see in Scotland


While some turnstones are present year-round we have wintering visitors from Canada and Greenland all around our coasts. They really live up to their name, as their able to turn stones over that are as big as themselves!

 turnstone perched on rock
Credit: Tom Marshall (rspb-images.com)

Turnstones can have a bit of a funny diet, being fairly happy to eat whatever comes their way. They have been recorded as eating some strange things as such garlic, cheese, dogfood, potato peel and fish remains and even were once recorded as eating human flesh from a corpse (inset yikes emoji)


You can find knots in large muddy estuaries around the coast. In summer months know are quite recognisable with bold brick red faces, bellies and chests but when they visit us in winter their plumage is grey and white.

It is widely thought that the knot’s name comes from King Canute, the 10th century Viking king.

several knot in shallow water feeding
Credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

Bar-tailed godwit

The largest numbers of bar-tailed godwits occur on large estuaries. They are known for their playful manoeuvres in flight; plunging down and shooting upwards, twisting and wheeling.

Black-tailed godwit

Similarly to the bar-tailed godwit estuaries and coastal lagoons are a top place to spot these visitors from Iceland.

black tailed godwits preening
Credit: Gordon Langsbury (rspb-images.com)

Bar-tailed and black-tailed godwits can be very tricky to tell apart. Unsurprisingly, one way you can tell is by their tails patterns, but there are also some other features you might look for. Black-tailed godwits have longer legs than the bar-tailed but this can be quite hard to see! The black-tailed godwit’s bill is often longer and a little bit straighter while bar-tailed godwits' bills are noticeably upcurved.


Like many of our waders sanderling are found around coastal areas. They dart back and forth energetically feasting on a diet of mostly fish and crustaceans. Their distinctive running action is due to only having three toes on their feet.

In winter they often appear strikingly pale compared to other shore waders, though in many ways they are similar to a knot.

Credit: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)