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Cuckoo Concern

Cuckoo, House Sparrow and Starling Join the Growing List of Birds Needing Conservation Action in UK…

Today sees the publication of the updated list of priority species and habitats that will guide future conservation action across the UK. Teams of experts from a range of organisations, including the RSPB, have compiled the list, which comprises 1149 species and 65 habitats. The list will be the basis for conservation action under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan. The updated list now includes 59 birds, up from 26 when the first Biodiversity Action Plan list was published in 1995.

Making it to the new list are familiar garden birds, including the house sparrow and starling, whose populations have declined by more than half over the last 25 years. Other additions include rapidly-declining woodland birds, like the lesser spotted woodpecker, and declining long-distance migratory birds, including the cuckoo and yellow wagtail.Welcoming the publication of the new list, the RSPB’s conservation director, Dr Mark Avery, said: “Over the last 12 years, the BAP system has helped everyone focus attention on priority species. To its credit, we have seen dramatic increases in key species, like bittern, stone-curlew, corncrake, nightjar, cirl bunting and woodlark. However, the fact that the bird list now includes more than a fifth of all of the UK’s regularly occurring birds is a cause of alarm, especially as the list now includes a number of woodland birds and summer visiting birds like the cuckoo. The purpose of the list is to provide a framework for recovery and joint action from governments and conservation organisations alike. Before we can celebrate the widespread removal of species from the list, we will have to tackle some general environmental problems, including further reforms of agriculture, a faster rate of habitat creation and the need to tackle climate change. We will have to act fast if we are to meet obligations of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010.” Out of the 59 birds included on the new BAP list, 32 have qualified because of declines of more than 50 per cent in the UK over the last 25 years; this compares with 24 birds from the 1995 list. Of the two dozen, from 1995, the populations of 13 are still declining and therefore still qualify for inclusion on the new list. The new birds on the BAP list which have declined by more than 50 per cent in the last 25 years are: European white-fronted goose (winter visitor only), lapwing, Arctic skua, herring gull, cuckoo, lesser spotted woodpecker, tree pipit, yellow wagtail, ring ouzel, grasshopper warbler, Savi’s warbler, wood warbler, willow tit, starling, house sparrow, lesser redpoll, hawfinch, yellowhammer.

The birds which have remained on the BAP list because of declines of more than 50 per cent are: Common scoter, black grouse, capercaillie, grey partridge, roseate tern, turtle dove, wryneck, skylark, marsh warbler, spotted flycatcher, red-backed shrike, tree sparrow, corn bunting. The number of UK records of aquatic warbler has also declined by more than 50 per cent. This bird, which only occurs in the UK as a migrant, and remains on the BAP list because of the fall in the number of UK records and because it is also considered to be facing the threat of global extinction. The Balearic shearwater has been included on the new list because it is facing an extreme threat of global extinction. A number of birds have qualified because of their extinction threat within Europe. These are: Bewick’s swan (winter visitor only), Greenland white-fronted goose (winter visitor only), dark-bellied brent goose (winter visitor only), scaup (winter visitor only), black-throated diver, black-tailed godwit (one race only), wren (Fair Isle and St Kilda races only, which are confined to these two locations), and song thrush (Hebridean race only).

Four birds have been included on the BAP list because their UK populations (which must also amount to more than a quarter of the European population) have declined by more than a quarter in the UK during the past 25 years. The dunnock, marsh tit and red grouse have unique British races not found in Europe, while the curlew has an important nesting population in the UK.

Eleven birds which were listed in 1995 due to their rapidly-declining populations no longer qualify against this criteria because their populations have stabilized or improved through targeted conservation action. However, these species are retained on the new BAP list because they have yet to recover safe, sustainable populations. These birds are: bittern, corncrake, stone-curlew, red-necked phalarope, nightjar, woodlark, song thrush, linnet, bullfinch, cirl bunting and reed bunting.

4th July 2014