12 March 2020

What wildlife lives in Kew Gardens?

From badgers to woodpeckers, the Gardens are thriving with creatures great and small.

By Ellen McHale

Badger

Kew Gardens is home to 50,000 living plants, but it's also a haven for wildlife who play an important part in our thriving ecosystem. 

Animals and birds depend on plants to survive, for food, shelter and safety, and our woodlands are the perfect place to hide away. 

Find out what creatures call Kew Gardens home. 

Badgers 

These striped mammals are nocturnal and shy, so tend to hide in the day time and come out at night. But look closely, as you'll still be able to see signs of their nighttime activity. 

Badgers (Meles meles) live in large family groups in a burrow system known as a sett, and you can see the burrow entrances across the Gardens. They use dry grass and dead leaves as a comfy bedding to keep warm. 

They use their strong front paws to dig for food like earthworms, fruits, roots and bulbs. 

Explore the secret underground world of badgers for yourself in our life-sized badger sett at the start of Woodland Walk.

For a chance to watch badgers up close you can go badger watching at Wakehurst, our sister site in Sussex. 

Badger walking over a tree root
Badgers, James Warwick / RBG Kew

Foxes 

Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) are members of the dog family, and their red fur and bushy tails make them unmistakable.

They can survive in a range of habitats, from forests to mountains. They also adapt well to cities and are very common in urban areas, where they eat food from rubbish bins and anything else they can get their paws on. 

These furry creatures are perfectly adapted for night-time hunting, as their eyes are specially adapted for the dark and their vision is very sharp. 

Fox
Fox/Scott Walsh Unsplash

Woodpeckers

Look up at the tree branches above you and listen for a 'tap, tap, tap'. You might just spot a woodpecker clinging to the side of a tree.

One of the most common woodpeckers in the UK are great spotted woodpeckers (Dendrocopos major). They're covered in black and white feathers, and male birds have distinctive red patches on their heads. 

They use their strong beaks to hammer holes into tree trunks to create nest holes to live in. Tree bark is also their hunting ground, and they use their long sticky tongues to catch insects in the bark. 

Great spotted woodpecker on a tree
A great spotted woodpecker, Emanuela Meli/Unsplash

Hedgehogs 

These cute spiny animals get their name from the pig-like snorts they make when foraging in the undergrowth for their favourite snacks. 

Hedgehogs (Erinaceus europaeus) eat small slugs, beetles, worms and spiders. In the winter months, they settle down to hibernate in nests made from fallen leaves. 

Sadly, hedgehog numbers are in decline due to habitat loss and urbanisation. You can help hedgehogs in your own garden by creating a log pile, or growing a wild patch where hedgehogs can shelter. 

Hedgehog in a leaf pile
Hedgehog/Unsplash

Dormice 

Explore our wild botanic garden in the heart of Sussex to spot signs of one of Britain's rarest mammals. 

Hazel dormice (Muscardinus avellanarius) are native rodents that live in the woodland canopy, where they feast on nuts, seeds and berries.

They have a body length of 6 – 9cm with long fluffy tails, and they hibernate in nests on the ground during winter. 

At Wakehurst's Loder Valley Nature Reserve, the undergrowth of brambles and hazels provides dense cover and food for these rare creatures to live. 

We have 300 dormouse nesting boxes in the reserve, which are monitored by Wakehurst rangers as part of our support for the Dormouse Recovery Programme.  

Resting dormice in the Loder Valley Nature Reserve
Dormice © RBG Kew
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