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Animals on the Dunes

Hundreds of plants and animals rarely found elsewhere in a county thrive on Cornwall's sand dune systems. The abundant flowers attract hundreds of different invertebrates. These bring the dunes alive with noise and activity.

The insects provide abundant food for breeding birds. These include whitethroats and stonechats and ground-nesting skylarks. Skylarks favour the semi-fixed dunes for nesting. They are easily frightened by humans and dogs, and may abandon their nests. The male skylark can often be heard singing high up in the sky. This is to distract predators from the nests and young birds on the ground. Buzzards and kestrels are often seen over the sand dunes. They are searching for young or injured rabbits, lizards or baby birds to prey upon.

Adders, slow worms and lizards may be found on the dunes. They can be found particularly on warm south-facing sheltered banks. Adders go into hibernation, over the cooler winter months, re-awakening in April. Adders, with their characteristic black and yellow zig-zag markings, are very sensitive to vibration and noise. They usually slither away when people walk near them.

Do not get too close to adders - they can inflict a dangerous bite.

Rabbits are also vital to maintaining the variety of habitats on the dunes through grazing. They are often considered pests on farmland. On the dunes however, they help to stop brambles and other scrubby plants covering over the flower-rich dune habitats. The rabbits live in burrows or hide in the bramble bushes. Foxes hunt rabbits on the dunes.

Common and Conspicuous Animals on Cornwall's Dunes

Wolf and jumping spiders
Garden tiger moth
Six spot burnet moth
Common blue butterfly
Meadow brown butterfly
Pond skaters
Cinnabar moth and caterpillar
Grayling butterfly
Glow worms

Reptiles and Amphibians
Slow worms
Palmate newts
Common lizard
Buzzards kestrels
Meadow pipit

Some of the animals found on Cornwalls dunes may be threatened with decline. This is because they are very rare and are extremely vulnerable. Numbers of skylarks in Great Britain have declined significantly. This is due to habitat loss and increased use of pesticides. The rare sand lizard was completely lost from most of Britain's sand dunes. It was recently reintroduced to a couple of secret locations in Cornwall. It lays eggs in holes in bare sand. It was at risk of becoming extinct in this country, due to the lack of suitable breeding sites.

Follow the links below for more information:

Cornwalls Sand Dunes: Back to the opening page.

Introduction to Cornwall's Sand Dunes: Provides information on how dunes form and where they have developed in Cornwall.

Plants of the Dunes: Provides information on dune succession and plant adaptation to survive in dune habitat.

People and the Dunes: Provides information on a range of human activities that occur on dune systems and the potential impact these activities have.

The Management of Cornwall's Sand Dunes: Provides information on factors that must be considered when managing sand dunes.