Crisis Alert for UK's Birds
Bird On! Abstract
18th April 1996
Eight of the leading organisations concerned with the conservation of Britain's birds have today issued a warning about 36 species of birds giving serious cause for concern.
The species are listed in a Review published today by Birds of Conservation Concern, a group comprising the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), BirdLife International, the Hawk and Owl Trust, the Game Conservancy Trust, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, the Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust.
The 36 species include rare ones whose populations are very low but also a disturbingly high number of common species of farmland birds which are rapidly declining. Rare species include the Bittern, Stone Curlew and Cirl Bunting. Widespread species include Tree Sparrow (down 89% in 25 years), Grey Partridge (down 82%), Turtle Dove (down 77%), Spotted Flycatcher (down 73%), Song Thrush (down 73%), Skylark (down 58%) and Linnet (down 52%). The complete list appears below.
Some species have suffered because of habitat loss and some, though still very rare, are increasing with better protection and habitat conservation. The declines in farmland birds have come about through changes in farming practice - including the change from spring to autumn sowing, the loss of hedgerows and increased use of efficient pesticides. Action called for ranges from individual species and habitat recovery programmes to large-scale changes in government policy.
Dr Mark Avery, chairman of the Birds of Conservation Concern Working Group, said:"The fate of bird species acts as a barometer of the health of the environment. There are now more than twice as many species which are rapidly declining than there were 10 years ago. Things are getting worse rather than better. The review lists a further 110 species of medium conservation concern. Many of these are internationally important, particularly wintering wildfowl and breeding seabirds. More than half the world's population of Gannets, Pink-footed Geese and Great Skuas are held in our trust, and the Scottish Crossbill is only found in Scottish pinewoods. We have an international responsibility to ensure they all maintain a favourable conservation status. If we fail, it will have a severe impact on the global well-being of these species."
The red species are as follows:Bittern, Corncrake, Marsh Warbler, Common Scoter, Stone Curlew, Dartford Warbler, Red Kite, Black-tailed Godwit, Spotted Flycatcher, White-tailed Eagle, Red-necked Phalarope, Red-backed Shrike, Marsh Harrier, Roseate Tern, Tree Sparrow, Hen Harrier, Turtle Dove, Linnet, Osprey, Nightjar, Twite, Merlin, Wryneck, Scottish Crossbill, Black Grouse, Woodlark, Bullfinch, Capercaillie, Skylark, Cirl Bunting, Grey Partridge, Song Thrush, Reed Bunting, Quail, Aquatic Warbler & Corn Bunting.
These are of high conservation concern. They include birds whose population or range is rapidly declining, recently or historically, and those of the highest conservation concern throughout the world. There are also 110 species on the amber list - medium conservation concern. These lists have to be updated regularly (ideally at three to five year intervals) as the fortunes of species can change very rapidly.
The Review document, Birds of Conservation Concern, is a result of the review of the status of all bird species in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man, and sets out the biological priorities for bird conservation in the next millennium. Copies can be obtained, free of charge, from Birds of Conservation Concern, c/o The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, SG19 2DL, UK (fax +44-1234-270522). Please mention Bird On! if you request a copy.