BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 15 April '17

A quarter of UK birds – including curlews and puffins – need urgent conservation efforts

The RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust have added 15 birds to the ‘Red list’ of species currently under threat of extinction in the UK.

According to the charities’ State of the UK’s Birds report, more than a quarter of UK birds face extinction or significant decline in their numbers. Puffins, nightingales and pied flycatchers have all been added to the list of birds in urgent need of conservation efforts.

‘Many British birds are in trouble. But the report also shows is that where conservationists and farmers work together to restore habitats we can bring beautiful birds like the cirl bunting, manx shearwater and red kite back from the brink.’

DAVID BULLOCK
Head of Nature conservation at the National Trust

Birds at risk

Downward trends for upland species continue; five have been added to the Red list, bringing the total to 12. Europe’s largest and most distinctive wader, the curlew, is joined by dotterel, whinchat, grey wagtail and merlin.

Hosting up to a quarter of the global breeding population, the UK could be considered one of the most important countries in the world for breeding curlews. But in recent decades, numbers have almost halved due to habitat loss. With a much smaller population, predators are now having an effect on what was once a resilient population.

The curlew is considered ‘near threatened’ globally and, with urgent action required to halt their decline, an International Single Species Action Plan has been created.

‘Curlews are instantly recognisable on winter estuaries or summer moors by their striking long, curved beak, long legs and evocative call. They are one of our most charismatic birds and also one of our most important.

‘The state of the UK’s birds report shows that through land management, new research and existing data, the International Single Species Action Plan aims to understand the key causes of curlew declines across the UK and the Republic of Ireland and take action to reverse this trend.’

DR DANIEL HAYMOW
RSPB conservation scientist

Good news for some

The report contains good news for some species. Golden eagle numbers have increased by 15% since the previous survey in 2003, and it’s estimated there are now over 1,000 breeding pairs of cirl bunting. The winter thrushes survey shows how important the UK is for continental migrating birds.

In addition to these successes, a number of species have moved from the Red list to the Amber or Green lists. Two species, the bittern and nightjar, have moved from Red to Amber thanks to the creation and management of suitable habitat, and an additional 22 species have moved from the Amber to the Green list meaning they are now of the lowest conservation concern.

Most notably the red kite, once one of the UK’s most threatened species, is now on the Green list thanks to the efforts of conservationists and landowners. These successes demonstrate that there is cause for hope for other Red-listed species and that targeted conservation action can make a real difference.

Protecting habitats

The National Trust last month committed to creating 25,000 hectares of new ‘priority’ wildlife habitats across England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

More than a third (100,000 hectares) of the land the National Trust currently cares for is protected in law for its natural or geological significance.

Rangers from the conservation charity have already worked alongside farmers and partner organisations to restore nature habitats for a range of rare species.

In the South West the Trust and its tenant farmers have been involved in an RSPB-led project to manage arable fields in a more traditional way. The work, which includes planting hedgerows and leaving barley stubble out over winter, has seen cirl bunting numbers rocket by 1,000 per cent. Over a tenth of the UK’s cirl buntings breed on National Trust farmland.

Click here to read the full State of the UK’s Birds report.