Curlews and puffins join the RSPB’s red list, but golden eagles are doing better

Curlews are prized for their distinctive song, but their numbers are falling in the UK.

A report compiled by the RSPB and others warns that more than one quarter of UK birds are ‘red listed’ and in need of urgent conservation efforts, including curlews, puffins and nightingales.

Europe’s largest and most distinctive wader, the curlew’s arrival on the RSPB endangered list is a particular concern as the UK provides a home for over a quarter of the global breeding population. Its numbers dropped 64% between 1970 and 2014 according to the report, The State of the UK’s Birds 2016, which was compiled by the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT), together with UK government conservation agencies.

Other species joining the red list include the dotterel, whinchat, grey wagtail and merlin. There are 67 species in total, currently tagged by the red list as in need of conservation action.

However, there was also some good news from the report, including an increase in golden eagle populations of 15% since the last one, a factor seemingly attributable to successful efforts with monitoring and tagging in Scotland, where these birds reside.

And two other 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.

Need for action
Liberal Democrat MEP Catherine Bearder, also an RSPB Turtle Dove Species Champion, said the report highlighted the need to resist post-Brexit efforts to water down legislation relevant to conservation.

“The EU’s Birds Directive is one of the world’s best environmental legislation and serves to protect over 500 bird species across Europe.

“I am absolutely terrified that recent leaks show the Tory government see Brexit as an opportunity to reduce vital protecting legislation.

“Migrating Birds cross borders, and habitats are affected by climate change. We must continue to work with our European neighbours to ensure our children and our grandchildren enjoy these stunning creatures for years to come.”