East of England bird species at risk of extinction as new Red List is published

Lapwings are on the Red List and may face extinction
Lapwings are on the Red List and may face extinction
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A new assessment of European birds has revealed that nearly one fifth (18 per cent) are considered to be at risk of extinction across the EU, with habitat loss, climate change and increasingly intensive farming being key causes of threat.

And of particular concern in the East of England are several wetland and farmland bird species.

“That these four species have been identified as being at risk across Europe makes our work to help their numbers here in the East of England that much more important to their long term survival.”

RSPB Senior Conservation Officer Philip Pearson

The updated European Red List of Birds has been published by a consortium led by BirdLife International, of which the RSPB is the UK partner. The report identifies 37 UK species- 15 per cent of all bird species that regularly occur in the UK- that are at risk of becoming extinct in Europe.

More than 80 per cent of the UK’s breeding population of the ‘endangered’ black-tailed godwit is found in Eastern England, and the ‘vulnerable’ lapwing, redshank and turtle dove all have important strongholds in East Anglia, and appear as birds with ‘Red’ status on the UK list of Birds of Conservation Concern.

The UK has lost 95 per cent of its breeding turtle doves since 1970. Now, around 60 per cent of the remaining population is found in the East of England.

RSPB Senior Conservation Officer, Philip Pearson, said: “That these four species have been identified as being at risk across Europe makes our work to help their numbers here in the East of England that much more important to their long term survival.”

Having suffered historic declines due to changes in land use and intensification of farming, lapwings, redshanks, black-tailed godwits and turtle doves are all the focus of intensive efforts by the RSPB, and other UK conservation organisations working with landowners to create and improve habitats and manage their populations in the East of England.

There is good news for some species though. The stone-curlew, which came close to extinction in the UK in the 1980s, has seen its fortunes reversed thanks to work by the RSPB together with landowners and conservation partners, which has seen the bird’s population in the UK treble in the last 30 years.

More than two-thirds of the UK’s breeding population of stone curlews resides in Eastern England, with the majority of those in the Brecks. In the new EU Red List its European conservation status has been ‘down-listed’ from ‘Vulnerable’ in 2004 to ‘Least Concern’ (not threatened) in the new Red List.

Philip Pearson said: “Success stories such as the stone curlew, marsh harrier and avocet show that targeted conservation action can work and that is reflected in the findings of this new report. However, the report does highlight that we need to be doing much more conservation to save the species at greatest risk.”

Martin Harper is the RSPB’s Conservation Director, said: “These red list assessments provide another red warning that nature across Europe is in trouble.

“It would have been unthinkable 20 years ago that birds like lapwing and curlew would be threatened species in Europe – the status of many species is deteriorating across Europe. However, conservation action across Europe, guided by the Birds Directive is helping species like the stone-curlew, avocet and crane.”

Christina Ieronymidou, the European Species Programme Officer at BirdLife, said: “The European Red List tells us that we have done a decent job at rescuing the rarest species by protecting their last strongholds and taking actions such as eradication of invasive species and insulation of killer powerlines.

“But we are now faced with much bigger challenges, from the ecological degradation of our farmland to climate change. These problems require a much broader and deeper response.”