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10 of the most colorful animals in Britain: a dazzling rainbow of wildlife to spot

The brilliance of nature is not just limited to the South American rainforests, African jungles or the coral glow of the Great Barrier Reef.

There is splendor throughout the animal kingdom, not least in the British Isles, where the browns and greens so essential for camouflage also include slightly more extraordinary colours.

10 of the most colorful animals in Britain

Kingfisher (Alcedo on this)

These small, starling-sized birds are widely distributed across slower-moving, lowland river systems and can be elusive, but are unmistakable when spotted. They have a sturdy body and a long beak. They are master fishermen and often dive into the water from their favorite perch.

Their plumage shimmers, with electric blue on the wings, head and back, an orange breast and white throat.

Common squid (Sepia officinalis)

Most commonly seen in summer on the south and west coasts, the squid is a mollusk that can grow up to 30cm in length. It has 8 arms and 2 tentacles with which it can grab prey.

They have incredible camouflage properties, changing pattern and color, while their calcium-rich, aragonite ‘bone’ is fed to pet birds.

Bullfinch (Pyrrula pyrrula)

On a damp, humid day, the bright pink blush of a male bullfinch glows like a light bulb among the forest greenery.

A female’s breast is paler, but she shares the beautiful black cap, white rump and sturdy appearance. Often seen feeding on buds and seeds of fruit trees.

Cuckoo wrasse (Labrus mixtus)

The cuckoo is one of many species of wrasses that could be on this list. Widespread, but most common in the south and west, they rarely grow longer than 30 cm.

Both sexes are orange in color, although the male has an unusual blue, green and yellow pattern, especially strong around the head.

  • To learn more about these dazzling fish, check out their appearance in Blue Planet 2.

goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis)

A small finch with a red face, white cheeks, black hood and striking golden flashes across the jet black wings.

They are busy birds, often seen feeding on thistle heads or bird tables in the garden, and form flocks, especially in autumn and winter.

Rainbow leaf beetle (Chrysolina granis)

Rainbow leaf beetle (Chrysolina grainis)
The metallic beauty of the rainbow leaf beetle. Credit: Getty

The Chrysolina genus is known for its color, and the most spectacular specimen is one of our rarest beetles.

Also known as the Snowden beetle after the mountain where it is almost exclusively found, it measures just 8mm and is subtly marked with multi-coloured, metallic stripes. The larvae feed on wild thyme.

Violet sea snail (Edmundsella pedata)

violet sea snail
These colorful sea snails are usually found in numbers of one or two. Credit: Getty

Found all along the coast of the British Isles, this nudibranch is a common but often solitary species of nudibranch, commonly found in shipwrecks.

They are small, usually 2 or 3 cm long, with a bright violet-purple color and white-tipped horns that grow in bunches and are known as cerata.

  • Miss the first sighting of Babakina anadoni – the extremely rare and brightly colored sea snail

Elephant hawk moth (Deilephila elpenor)

elephant hawk moth
Elephant hawk moths feed on tubular flowers such as honeysuckle and bluebells. Credit: Getty

This butterfly appears from May to July and is one of our largest and most common moth species, with a wingspan of over 6cm. Their body and wings are olive green with a striped, pink pattern.

The larvae have large ‘eye’ markings and can grow up to 8 cm long.

Peacock butterfly (Inachis io)

When adults hibernate, peacock butterflies may move on warm winter days, but are more familiar during the summer when they feed on flowers like butterflies.

Each burgundy wing is marked with a blue and yellow ‘eye’, which the butterfly flashes when threatened. Rubbing the wings together also produces a hissing sound.

Adonis blue butterfly (Lysandra bellargus)

blue butterfly adonis
The rare and beautiful blue butterfly. Credit: Getty

The Adonis Blue deserves inclusion because of the male’s incredible brilliance, especially when newly emerging. In sunlight, the blue of the wing radiates iridescence, a sheen that appears almost unnatural.

It is a rare species, restricted to inland southern England, with two flights in late spring and late summer.

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