Our Wildlife

The Greater Thames Estuary and Marshes is one of the best and most important places in the country for nature. See below for more information about what you might find here.

Breeding waders


In recent years, focused management has led to significant increases in the breeding success of species such as lapwing and redshank

Photo © Andy Hay/RSPB

Breeding Waders

Since the 1970’s breeding waders have seen steep declines in their breeding populations

UK Farmland Bird Indicator 1970-2007


Historically, the coastal grazing marshes of the Thames Estuary have been a hotspot for species of waders.

Photo © Andy Hay/RSPB


Shrill carder bee

Flower rich habitats, such as the Thames Terraces, sea walls and brownfield sites, support an incredible diversity of rare and scarce invertebrate species, including the iconic shrill carder bee.

Photo © Dr Stuart Connop


A great place to experience the rainforest of the invertebrate world is Canvey Wick, with a greater diversity of species per foot than any other site (SSSI) in the UK.

Habitat loss

51% of important invertebrate sites in London, Kent and Essex have been lost, partially lost or damaged or been granted planning permission in over a six year period

The State of Brownfields in the Thames Gateway, 2013

Wintering waterfowl


The estuary is an internationally-important location for species of overwintering waders and wildfowl, such as black-tailed godwits, dunlin, knots, brent geese and wigeon.

(c) John Whitting – Big Picture Competition

Wintering waterfowl

These birds visit every year to feed and roost on their annual migrations, coming from as far afield as Siberia and Iceland, and can be seen in huge flocks around the Thames Estuary.

Fish and marine mammals

Marine mammals

Harbour seals, grey seals and harbour porpoises all live in the Thames Estuary. Over 100 marine mammal sightings are reported by the public each year.

Zoological Society London (ZSL)


Over 120 species of fish have been recorded in the Thames, including the short snouted seahorse and smelt, a small predatory fish that actually smells of cucumber.

(c) RSPB Images / Jack Perks

European eel

The iconic European eel lives and grows in marshes and tributaries of the Thames before migrating to its spawning ground in the Sargasso Sea. However the eel is critically endangered with a decline of over 90% in the number of eels returning to the Thames since the 1980s.

(c) RSPB Images / Jack Perks

Water voles

Water voles

Once a common sight along waterways in Britain, water voles have undergone one of the most dramatic declines of any British mammal. The north Kent marshes are an important stronghold for water voles.


Water voles

As a result of concerted effort to manage habitat and remove non-native predator species, isolated populations are expanding with signs of new burrows – a total of 4,770 field signs in 197 km bank surveys over two years in north Kent.

(c) RSPB Images / Ben Andrew