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The importance of the AONB for wildlife, or more accurately biodiversity, is indicated by the number of sites and areas designated for their local, national and international significance for biodiversity within the AONB. These are independent of the AONB designation, operating through different legislation, but demonstrate the strong links between wildlife species and habitats and natural beauty.

Coastal habitats are particularly important and the area is justly renowned for its coastal birds. Much of the inland area is arable farmland, which also supports characteristic species but there are also important semi-natural habitats inland, such as lowland heath and ancient woodland.

Little terns

Little terns

The Norfolk Coast AONB is probably best known for its birdlife, particularly within the North Norfolk Heritage Coast. Here, the summer sees breeding waders such as redshank and lapwing on the marshes, with bitterns, marsh harriers and bearded tits in the reedbeds, and terns and ringed plovers on the shingle. Behind the coast, heathlands support breeding nightjars and woodlarks. In winter, the marshes play host to large and internationally important numbers of wildfowl and waders, with skeins of pink-footed and dark-bellied brent geese giving a special character to coastal skies. Migration time in spring and autumn is particularly popular with birding enthusiasts - as well as a great variety of migrating birds, rare birds often turn up at these times, sometimes thousands of miles off their normnal routes.

But there is also much more than birds. Rare and characteristic communities and species of plants and animals, including invertebrates, occur in locations throughout the area and there are also sites designated specially for their geological interest. A large part of the inshore and inter-tidal area has been designated as a European Marine Site for its special wildlife features and species.

Biodiversity designations

There are a range of biodiversity designations that overlay and overlap with the AONB, based on separate legislation, that testify to its importance for wildlife on a regional, national, European and global level.

You can find out more about these in the Conservation Designations summary appendix to the current AONB Management Plan or through designations mapping