Purple sandpiper - bird with black and grey feathers and a long orange beak

With an RSPB reserve and a Marine Conservation Zone on our doorstep, Penzance and the surrounding area is home to incredible and important wildlife.

These amazing animals are a powerful reminder of why living sustainability is so important – let’s protect their home and keep Penzance a stunning place to live for us all.

Here’s six of our favourite animals to spot in and around Penzance, whether you’re visiting on holiday or exploring your local area. Remember to always keep your distance from wildlife and leave only footprints behind.


Brown and white otter looking to the right, showing its whiskers and claws

Otters are fast becoming one of Cornwall’s most loved species to spot. Marazion Marsh and Mousehole seafront are two of the local places where these adorable critters fish and swim through the waves.

If these wonderful mammals are in your local area, you’ll spot their footprints (with 4 or 5 toes around a large food pad) in soft mud or gravel. You may be able to spot their webbed feet marks in soft mud. It’s this webbing that helps them glide through the water with ease.


Black bird with orange beak and feet

These beautiful birds are a proud symbol of Cornwall, although the last true Cornish chough died in the 1970s. Absent for decades, at the turn of the millennium the ‘Cornish crows’ made their natural return. A handful of choughs took up residence once again in Cornwall’s cliffs on The Lizard. One pair nested and the first wild choughs were born in 2002 for the first time in 50 years. This founding pair raised an incredible 46 chicks in total – what an amazing legacy.

The Cornish Chough Conservation Network is doing brilliant work protecting and monitoring choughs. We can’t wait to see what the future holds for these charming choughs.

Choughs have been spotted in Penwith between Pendeen and Gwennap Head, with the Cot Valley, another place to watch for these incredible birds. Lucky enough to see a chough in Cornwall? Email Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society (CBWPS) at choughs@cbwps.org.uk.

Purple sandpiper

Bird with long yellow / brown beak and brown / grey head

The wet and windy Cornish coast might not be everyone’s idea of the perfect winter holiday spot, but it’s milder than the Scandinavian and Arctic climate Purple sandpipers travel from for the colder months.

You’ll find these small shorebirds foraging on rocky coasts, like around Penzance’s harbour and Battery Rocks, near Jubilee Pool. These superb sandpipers can be identified by their brown/grey head and back, with a white underside with dark streaks. They also have orange/yellow short legs, and a yellow (at the base) bill which curves downwards.

Stalked jellyfish

Star shape creature with a stalk, seven legs and mini tentacles coming from each leg

If you’re rockpooling around Penzance’s coast, or further afield in Cornwall, keep your eyes peeled for stalked jellyfish. Not what typically comes to mind when we think of a jellyfish, the stalked kind are star-shaped (from above) or bell-shaped (from the side) – depending on your view. They have a stalk with a sucker keeping them anchored into position on seaweed or the seabed, with eight arms used to catch prey. 

As stalked jellyfish numbers are declining around the UK, they are a priority species for conservation. Mounts Bay’s sheltered shores are an important site for these rare jellyfish with five different stalked jellyfish species found here. Mounts Bay Marine Group is working to protect this vital habitat for these species and others like the giant goby, plus bring people closer to our local precious wildlife.

Grey heron

Whether you’re a keen birdwatcher or a casual wildlife enthusiast, you won’t want to miss a trip to Marazion March. Not only is the marsh worth visiting for the stunning views of St. Michael’s Mount, it’s also an RSPB reserve where you can see amazing bird species. The majestic grey heron is just one of the birds you’ll spot here. When their long necks are stretched out searching for food, they are easily recognisable. These birds are known for their unusual behaviour of nesting on the ground, the only herons in the UK to do this. Watching grey herons in flight is an incredible sight.

Bonus: The Marsh is also becoming a popular spot in Autumn/Winter at sunset to witness thousands of common starlings forming dazzling ‘murmurations’ (swirling, cloud-like displays formed by birds in the sky) – one of the biggest in West Cornwall.

What are your favourite animals to spot in and around Penzance?

Huge thanks to the following organisations for their amazing animal facts:
Cornwall Birdwatching and Preservation Society
Wildlife Trusts
Love Penzance
Operation Though
Mounts Bay Marine Group