New ‘red list’ assessment reveals more than a quarter of UK bird species are critically endangered


The assessment of British birds found over a quarter are seriously endangered.

Some 70 of the 245 birds assessed in the UK are on the ‘red list’ – meaning they are of greatest conservation concern due to severe declines, numbers well below historical levels or risk global extinction, according to the latest Birds of Conservation Concern 5 assessment.

This update of the UK Red List of Birds, carried out by a coalition of UK’s leading bird conservation organizations, is longer than it has ever been, with a figure almost double what it was in the first overview made in 1996.

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This assessment, carried out by groups including the British Trust for Ornithology, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and the National Trust, examines 245 species regularly found in the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and the classifies in the red, amber or green categories depending on how they are considered threatened.

RSPB CEO Beccy Speight said the assessment was “further proof that UK wildlife is in freefall and that not enough is being done to reverse the decline”.

She warned, “As with our climate, this is truly the last-ditch fair to stop and reverse the destruction of nature.

“We often know what steps we need to take to change the situation, but we need to do a lot more, quickly and at scale. “

Newly Red Listed species include Swifts, House Swallows, Ptarmigan, Purple Sandpiper, Montagu’s Harrier, and Greenfinch.

Overall, the Red List has increased by three species since the last assessment in 2015, with 11 more birds on the Red List, but six have moved to amber status and two are no longer assessed.

The amber list has grown by seven species while the green list – of the least endangered birds – has been reduced by nine species. Previous conservation bird reports have highlighted the plight of farmland, woodland and upland birds, with this report adding more farmland and upland species to the Red List.

The research director of the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, which conducts the Big Farmland Bird Count each year, Dr Andrew Hoodless, said: “We need to better understand the effects of climate change on some species, as well as the impacts of climate change. evolution of habitats and food availability along migratory routes and in the wintering areas of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.

“For many Red Listed species, however, improving breeding success in the UK is vital – we can and must make real and immediate improvements to this through better engagement with farmers, UK land managers and game wardens to encourage the adoption of effective sets of conservation measures. . “

The report also shows that the status of long-distance migrants to Africa continues to deteriorate.

Swifts have gone from the amber to red list in the face of a 58 percent drop in their populations since 1995, and house swallows are joining them due to a 57 percent drop since 1969, joining other birds that migrate to sub-Saharan Africa such as cuckoos and nightingales.

Greenfinches have moved from the green list to the red list following a crash of 62% of the population since 1993 due to a serious outbreak of trichomoniasis.

Environmentalists said the disease had spread through contaminated food and drinking water, and urged owners to regularly clean bird feeders and temporarily stop distributing food if sick birds are seen so to slow down the spread.

Experts have also raised concerns about populations of waterfowl and wading birds that overwinter in the UK, such as Bewick’s Swans, Common Goldeneye and Dunlin, which have joined the Red List, with pressures such as illegal hunting abroad, ingestion of lead ammunition and climate change which sees some arctic breeding birds briefly stop in Eastern Europe rather than s’ fly to Great Britain.

Leach Oceanite and Black-legged Kittiwakes are among the Red List birds threatened with global extinction. Rook has moved from the Green List to the Amber List as it is now classified as vulnerable to extinction on a European scale.

More than 20% of the European crows population breed in the UK and Wales, their numbers decreased by 58% between 1995 and 2018.

There were also warnings about the future of curlews in Wales, with suggestions that the species could become extinct as a breeding bird in the next 12 years. Habitat loss and unfavorable habitat management are some of the reasons for the nearly 70% decline in numbers since 1995.

The Northern Wheatear is another bird that is rising to the top of the amber list. The number of highland songbirds is plummeting, which the report said has triggered a need to understand the cause of their decline.

In better news, successful reintroduction projects have helped white-tailed eagles – which have become extinct in the UK as

birds breeding over a century ago – go from red list to amber list.

Song Thrush, Pied Flycatcher, and Spring Wagtail have changed from red to amber, although they remain close to the threshold of the most at-risk category, as have Red Wing and Black Redstart.

The colonization of the UK by new birds – in large part due to human-induced climate change – saw five new species, including the great white egret, the cattle egret and the black-winged stilt added to the last review.


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