Firecrests have been extending their range since the late 19th century but are still confined largely to continental Europe, west of Russia and north to Denmark and Lithuania, with outposts in northwest Africa, various Mediterranean islands and Asia Minor. In Britain, until the 1960s, they mainly occurred as scarce summer passage migrants along the south coast north to East Anglia and as winter visitors to an even smaller area from Dorset to the Isles of Scilly. Evidence of breeding was first detected in the New Forest in 1961. By 1969, 27 singing males were recorded in the New Forest with other records from Hertfordshire and Dorset. Their range continued to expand from then on. The 1988-91 Breeding Atlas recorded presence in 99 10km squares in England and Wales, mostly in central and southern England, extending north to Lancashire.

            In Wiltshire, the first record was of one shot in Savernake Forest in 1881. There were a few more isolated occurrence after that but it wasn’t until the mid 1960s that they began to appear annually as passage migrants or winter visitors. The first confirmed breeding record occurred on 18 July 1983 at Shear Water. Thereafter at least one and up to 17 records of confirmed or probable breeding were registered every year until 2000, with numbers continuing to increase in subsequent years. Birds of Wiltshire recorded confirmed or probable breeding in nine tetrads; WTA2 recorded breeding in 16 tetrads, with more than one territory in several of the tetrads.


The following references are used throughout these species accounts, in the abbreviated form given in quotation marks:

“1968-72 Breeding Atlas” – Sharrack, J.T.R. 1976: The Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser

“1981-84 Winter Atlas” – Lack, P.C. 1986: The Atlas of Wintering Birds in Britain and Ireland. T. & A. Poyser

1988-91 Breeding Atlas” – Gibbons, D.W., Reid, J.B. & Chapman, R.A. 1993: The New Atlas of Breeding Birds in Britain and Ireland 1988-91. T. & A. Poyser

Birds of Wiltshire” – Ferguson-Lees, I.J. et al. 2007 : Birds of Wiltshire, published by the tetrad atlas group of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society after mapping fieldwork 1995-2000. Wiltshire Ornithological Society.

“Bird Atlas 2007-2011” – Balmer, D.E., Gillings, S., Caffrey, B.J., Swann, R.L., Downie, I.S. and Fuller, R.J. 2013: Bird Atlas 2007-2011: the Breeding and Wintering Birds of Britain and Ireland

WTA2” – ("Wiltshire Tetrad Atlas 2 ") the present electronic publication, bringing together the Wiltshire data from “Birds of Wiltshire” and “Bird Atlas 2007-11”, together with data from further fieldwork carried out in 2011 and 2012.

"Hobby" - the annual bird report of the Wiltshire Ornithological Society.