Alien Species in Britain, Friend or Foe?

How and when did alien plants and animals get to Britain?

This page tells you a little bit about some alien plants and animals that have made their way into Britain.


It is thought that the Black Rat was first brought here by the Normans. However, there are many other rats that now live in Britain, and were probably brought here accidentally on ships. Rats now live in all kinds of different places all over Britain, especially near where humans live. It has even been claimed that rats are so common, that we are never a few feet away from one!


The American Mink was brought here in 1929, as it was needed on fur farms. However, some of these minks escaped, and now there are many minks living wild in the British countryside. Minks live in dens and are commonly found near water, as they have developed a taste for water voles!  You can download a Mink Fact File from our Worksheets page


Many birds such as the Mandarin Duck (pictured) were brought over to Britain because they were thought to look good in the gardens of grand houses and castles. Most of these birds now live in woodlands and forests, or on marshlands near water. Some birds such as Pheasants were brought in to play sport with, such as shooting. This is still a common practice today, with the pheasants living in woodlands or grasslands.


Many plants such as the Rhododendron (pictured) which are now common in the wild are also aliens that have been introduced into Britain. These plants are usually brought to Britain on purpose by plant hunters who want to grow them.

Document icon Learning article provided by: Yorkshire Museum and Gardens | 
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