Dr Duncan James > Nature Travel Guide > Where > Planet Earth > Europe > Netherlands

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Nature Travel Guide

Wildlife of the Netherlands (Europe)

"The Netherlands is like one giant wetland nature reserve with wildlife all year."

I recommend the European Birds (premium link) activity.

I enjoy exploring all of the Netherlands. If I had to choose favourite spots it might be Flevoland in the winter, Friesland in the summer and Biesbosch for year-round interest.

The Netherlands is on the coast of northern Europe. I believe this is one of the top destinations for winter birdwatching in Europe. It is in the centre of a region that extends approximately from Britain to Germany where large numbers of overwintering geese, ducks, waders (shorebirds in American English) and other waterbirds are found. The Netherlands has vast areas of wet fields which are prime habitat for these overwintering birds.

The wetlands are also good in the summer with dragonflies, butterflies, flowers and still plenty of birds. Meanwhile, Dutch woodland has birds, mammals and other wildlife all year round including rarer species such as Black Woodpecker.

There seem to be improvements to the national parks http://www.nationaalpark.nl http://www.nationaalpark.nl/documents/documents/np-brochure-engels.pdf every time I visit. These include large-scale projects to create wildlife corridors and reintroductions of rare or locally-extinct species. I think this is part of an atmosphere of conservation that helps make the Netherlands such a good place to visit.

  • Long roads pass along the coast at Zeeland (location 1) giving chances to see overwintering birds such as grebes, Brent Geese and flamingoes.
  • The island of Texel (location 2) has wet fields, marsh, dunes and coastal habitats. Geese, ducks and waders/shorebirds visit in large numbers in winter and breeding birds include Spoonbill in summer.
  • At Lauwersmeer (location 3) the estuary, surrounding farmland and offshore island of Schiermonnikoog offer fantastic goose-watching during the winter.
  • Flevoland (location 4) has reedbeds, lakes and marsh with Red Deer all year round and geese and waders/shorebirds in winter.
  • Veluwe (location 5) forest has mammals, woodpeckers, birds of prey and other wildlife. Different length walks are available.
  • Friesland (location 6) is a rural area to the north with wet fields and geese in winter. In summer there are dragonflies, butterflies and birds in the marshland.
  • Biesbosch (location 7) is a large inland waterway with Spoonbill, geese, ducks, waders/shorebirds, beaver, butterflies and other wildlife.
  • Afsluitdijk (location 8) is a very long dike on the E22 running north from Den Oever. A cafe halfway along has some great pictures of the dike being built and a viewing tower. I have had mixed success birdwatching but once saw thousands of ducks offshore in winter.
  • The inland sand dunes at Drunense Duinen (location 9) have specialist plants. The woodland along the edge of the dune is home to birds.
  • Birdwatching in the Netherlands (premium link) offers typical identification challenges to the rest of Europe although a lot of my notes are, unsurprisingly, about geese and waders/shorebirds.
  • Popular birdwatching itineraries in the Netherlands (premium link) include winter multi-site trips to see wildfowl and summer trips to a variety of habitats.
  • Possible birds in the Netherlands (premium link) include a wide variety of waders/shorebirds, geese, ducks, grebes, divers/loons and typical western-European species.

The Whooper Swan can be seen overwintering in wetland areas throughout the Netherlands.

Birds of the Netherlands

The Netherlands could be described as being in "north-west Europe". Birds that prefer a more southerly, warmer climate (such as the bee-eater and Hoopoe) are either rarer or not found here. There are lots of birdwatchers http://www.waarneming.nl in the Netherlands.

One of the highlights of hiking or wildlife watching in the Netherlands are the islands just off the coast. Texel is covered as a separate location and Schiermonnikoog is site 3 in the Lauwersmeer location. Other islands include Terschelling (which is also a popular tourist destination) with breeding Spoonbill and Vlieland which is popular with birdwatchers who look for rare/vagrant birds particularly in September/October.

There are 416 species of bird that are found in Europe (ignoring vagrants and very rare birds). The Netherlands has 218 of these species (ignoring some of the waders/shorebirds that are only likely during passage). 93 species of bird are likely in the Netherlands (by which I mean this is approximately the number you might see in a week of typical birdwatching). 52 species are only possible in the summer (for example warblers) and 47 are only possible in the winter (for example geese).

Barnacle Geese are a common sight on the coast of the Netherlands in the winter.

This article is part of the Nature Travel Guide and was published on October 19th 2018.

Larger-scale information relating to this page include the Planet Earth and Europe articles.

Even more articles including detailed site descriptions, illustrated wildlife-watching activities, self-guided walks, itinerary recommendations, birdwatching overviews and mammal-watching overviews are available in the premium eBooks.

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