Cockle ©Cumbria Wildlife Trust


Scientific name: Cerastoderma edule
The common cockle is a traditional seaside favourite, both for its white shells often found in the sand and for the yummy snack of cockles doused in malt vinegar.

Species information


Length: up to 5cm long Average Lifespan: 5-10 years

Conservation status


When to see

January to December


The common cockle lives on muddy and sandy shores, between the high tide and low tide mark, and is commonly found in estuaries. It is a medium-sized clam-like shell, rounded and domed with radiating ridges. It feeds by filtering plankton and other organic matter from the water. Cockles are an important food source for shorebirds such as oystercatchers, the shore crab and flatfish.

How to identify

This is the most common cockle found on our shores and the one most likely to be found washed up on the beach. The outer surface of the shell is off-white, yellowish or brown, and the inside is white.


Found all around UK coasts.

Did you know?

Cockles can reach densities of up to 10,000 individuals per square metre! In winter, common cockles don't grow very much which leads to the marked growth-bands on the shell; these bands can be used to age cockles.

How people can help

Choose hand-gathered cockles rather than those harvested using a suction dredge. Cockles from the Dee Estuary and the Burry Inlet are MSC Certified, so there are sustainable options available that can allow you to enjoy pickled cockles at the seaside without guilt! All around the UK, The Wildlife Trusts are working with fishermen, researchers, politicians and local people towards a vision of 'Living Seas', where marine wildlife thrives. Do your bit for our Living Seas by supporting your local Wildlife Trust or checking out our Action pages.
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