The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (map), usually referred to simply as Kew Gardens, can be found between Richmond and Kew in south-west London. The site consists of 121 hectares (299 acres) of gardens and botanical glasshouses incorporating the world’s largest collection of living plants and attracting more than two million visitors a year. The gardens are a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Kew Gardens celebrated its 250th anniversary in 2009. It began life in 1759 purely as a physic garden, created for Princess Augusta, the widow of Frederick, Prince of Wales. The garden was constructed within an area of land that had been owned by royalty for centuries, and when Princess Augusta died in 1772 her son, George III, merged it with adjacent land and appointed the botanist Sir Joseph Banks as his adviser and unofficial director of Kew. In 1840 the gardens were adopted as a national botanical garden. Under Kew's director, William Hooker, the gardens were increased to 30 hectares (75 acres) and the pleasure grounds, or arboretum, extended to 109 hectares (270 acres), and later to its present size. Kew Gardens lost hundreds of trees in the Great Storm of October 1987. The gardens were put on the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites in 2003.
Kew Gardens offer a variety of habitats for wildlife. The Queen’s Cottage Grounds are managed to encourage wildlife. They are rich in native trees, shrubs and wildflowers, which support a diverse invertebrate fauna. Bird-feeders attract small passerines. The Rhododendron Dell provides a sheltered stretch of cover and the dense planting around King William’s Temple offers nesting sites for woodland birds. The Riverside Walk gives good views of birds on and around the River Thames. The site has two stretches of open water — the Lake and the Palm House Pond. The range of habitats can be seen on the official plan of the site here.
The varied plant collections and rich invertebrate fauna support more than 40 species of breeding bird and at least 30 more that visit regularly in season. The presence of captive waterfowl and gamebirds and the provision of birdfeeders may encourage wild birds into the gardens. Lists of the commoner bird species are set out below. further information is available on a Kew Gardens factsheet.
Breeding birds: Mute Swan, Canada Goose, Greylag, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Little Grebe, Great Crested Grebe, Sparrowhawk, Kestrel, Pheasant, Moorhen, Coot, Feral Rock Dove, Stock Dove, Woodpigeon, Collared Dove, Ring-necked Parakeet, Tawny Owl, Kingfisher, Green Woodpecker, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Swallow, Pied Wagtail, Wren, Dunnock, Robin, Blackbird, Song Thrush, Mistle Thrush, Blackcap, Chiffchaff, Goldcrest, Spotted Flycatcher, Long-tailed Tit, Coal Tit, Blue Tit, Great Tit, Nuthatch, Treecreeper, Jay, Magpie, Jackdaw, Carrion Crow, Starling, Chaffinch, Greenfinch, Goldfinch, .
Resident birds not known to breed: Cormorant, Grey Heron, , Mandarin, Pochard, Black-headed Gull, Lesser Black-backed Gull, Grey Wagtail
Summer visitors not known to breed: Hobby, Reed Warbler, Lesser Whitethroat, Willow Warbler.
Winter visitors: Shelduck, Wigeon, Gadwall, Teal, Shoveler, Goldeneye, Goosander, Shag, Snipe, Woodcock, Common Gull, Herring Gull, Great Black-backed Gull, Kittiwake, Guillemot, Fieldfare, Redwing, Siskin, Redpoll. Passage migrants: Hobby, Oystercatcher, Lapwing, Turtle Dove, Cuckoo, Little Owl, Skylark, Meadow Pipit, Yellow Wagtail, Wheatear, Sedge Warbler, Garden Warbler, Brambling.
Ornamental bird collections: Black Swan, Bar-headed Goose, Barnacle Goose, Bean Goose, Emperor Goose, Greylag Goose, Lesser White-fronted Goose, Pink-footed Goose, Ross’s Goose, Eider Duck, Chilean Teal, Rosybill, Red-crested Pochard, Mandarin Duck, Goldeneye, Garganey, Pintail, Bahaman Pintail, Shelduck, Ruddy Shelduck, Chiloe Wigeon, Wood Duck, Peacock, Guinea Fowl, Pheasant, Silver Pheasant and Golden Pheasant.