Many of us take our feathered friends for granted – but an alarming new report suggests more than a quarter of UK birds are endangered.
Birds including curlew, puffin and nightingale are “in need of urgent conservation effort” and join a growing list of threatened species.
The State of the UK’s Birds 2016 (SUKB) report, compiled by groups including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), assesses the latest results from bird surveys and highlights how more than a quarter of the UK’s regularly-occurring bird species are now ‘Red-listed’.
There are now 67 birds on the Red endangered list, an increase of 15 since the last review in 2009. Another 96 birds are on the Amber list, which means they’re considered at threat of European extinction and have shown moderate population decline, as opposed to the severe population decline of birds on the Red list..
Many of the birds are on the Red list because of a severe recent decline in their numbers and/or range in the UK. And eight are considered at risk of global extinction: Balearic shearwater, aquatic warbler, common pochard, long-tailed duck, velvet scoter, Slavonian grebe, puffin and the turtle dove.
Downward trends for upland species (found in open habitats of mountains, moors and bogs) continue, with five added to the Red list.
Europe’s largest and most distinctive wader – the curlew – has been added to the Red list and is joined by dotterel, whinchat, grey wagtail and merlin. This highlights the fact many of the UK’s upland species are in increasing trouble, with 12 upland birds now Red-listed.
The UK is one of the most important countries in the world for breeding curlews, as it hosts up to a quarter of the global breeding population. But in recent decades, numbers have almost halved due to habitat loss. And with a much smaller population, predators are now having an effect on what was previously a resilient population.
The curlew, which is recognisable on winter estuaries or summer moors by its striking long, curved beak, long legs and evocative call, is considered ‘near threatened’ globally. With urgent action required to halt its decline; an International Single Species Action Plan has been created to understand the key causes and take action to reverse the trend.
Good news for golden eagles
The report contains good news for some species, however. Golden eagle numbers have increased by 15% since 2003, winter thrushes are doing well in the UK, and cirl buntings are now estimated to have over 1,000 breeding pairs.
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 habitats, 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.
The RSPB says these successes show there’s hope for other Red-listed species and that targeted conservation action can make a real difference.
How you can help
The RSPB says people can help threatened birds by providing shelter, such as nestboxes, and a safe place to make a home.
Feed them seeds and household foods such as bread, pastry, cheese and bacon rind. Water is important to all birds for drinking and bathing. A shallow birdbath or upturned dustbin lid is ideal.
Martin Fowlie of the RSPB says: “Gardens provide an invaluable resource and are a key element in helping to save nature, perhaps even playing a pivotal role in reversing some declines.”
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