Distribution Britain 432 (-28.4%) Ireland 0
Numbers breeding: Britain 15,000 Ireland 0
European status: 700,000 (2% in Britain and Ireland =5)
British population trend: retreating and declining badly
How likely are you to record it? 23 squares (0.5%) Ranked 133=
Few other birds have shown such a consistent loss in Britain. Birdwatchers in London could find leks within a few dozens of miles of home a century ago! Some may have come from introductions but the last birds were shot in Kent and Sussex in the late 19th century, in Surrey, Berkshire and Norfolk in 1905, in Hampshire, Wiltshire and Dorset by 1928 and Lincolnshire a few years later. For a short while there seemed to be an increase put down to their ability to exploit newly planted conifers but, alas, losses then continued with Devon birds gone by the time of the second Atlas. In Wales the decrease of males from 1986 to 1995 was 38% to 164. Early 1999 has probably seen the demise the species from the Peak District. In Northern Britain the game bag records seem to indicate that 95% have been lost over the last century and there have certainly been severe problems over much of Scotland. The British population could be almost in free fall at the moment (estimated at 15,000). However careful management, including predator control, habitat manipulation and the removal of deer fences (see Capercaillie) has reversed the trend in some areas. These birds are in serious trouble.
Baines, D. & Hudson, P.J. 1995 Bird Study: 42, 122-131.
Hancock, M. et al. 1999. Bird Study: 46, 1- 15.
Williams, I.T. 1996 Welsh Birds: 1, 22-28.
The following Bird On! sketch is available:
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From The State of the Nations Birds
Copyright © 2000 by Chris Mead