Flamborough Head has one of the most important seabird colonies in Europe. In summer the cliffs are packed with tens of thousands of breeding auks, gannets and gulls creating a memorable experience.
Flamborough Cliffs nature reserve consists of three sections, Breil, Holmes and Thornwick, each with their own character but all important for the seabird colonies nesting on the 100-foot high sheer chalk cliffs.
For a brief period in the summer the cliffs host internationally important numbers of breeding seabirds including fulmars, herring gulls, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and puffins. A small number of shags also breed while gannets, nesting nearby at Bempton Cliffs, can be seen flying past in straggly lines. Landward of the cliff top footpath are grassland fields which host nesting skylark and meadow pipit whose numbers have increased as grazing has improved the habitat.
In Holmes there is an area of gorse scrub which attracts breeding linnet and yellowhammer. At Thornwick the two reed beds, though small, host reed warbler, sedge warbler and reed bunting.
Both the base of the steps into Holmes and near Thornwick cottages are fantastic spots for wildflowers. Growing here in the chalk grassland is bird's-foot trefoil, common spotted orchids and pyramidal orchids. Along the cliff edge there is a beautiful show of delicate pink thrift and occasionally Northern marsh orchid can bloom in profusion.
A number of butterflies are attracted to these flowers including small skipper and ringlet. The nature reserve is also home to the scarce burnet companion moth.