Rare birds ‘face UK extinction’

Climate change set to drive breeding species from Britain, warns report

GettyImages-123537352_0-a059bd3

Many of Britain’s rare breeding birds face extinction in the UK due to climate change, according to a new report.

Advertisement

Among those in decline in the UK are whimbrels, Slavonian grebes (pictured above), dotterels…

Dotterel
Dotterel numbers are down 57% since 1970. Picture: SUKB

…and common scoters.

Common Scoter Melanitta nigra, male preening on water, Forsinard Flows RSPB reserve, Sutherland, Scotland, July
Already very rare, the common scoter is rarer still, with numbers falling by 43%. Picture: SUKB

The State of the UK’s Birds 2017 says that these and other species are being pushed out of Britain as the temperature rises, leaving for colder regions to the north.

UK average temperatures have risen by 1°C since the 1980s. If trends continue, the report says, they are likely to may leave altogether. 

Little egret Egretta garzetta, standing on brick wall with fluffed up feathers, Hampshire, May
Little egret numbers, in contrast, are up. Picture: SUKB

Losers… and winners

But the news isn’t all bad. It’s thought that climate change will allow some bird species to thrive here.

Little egret (above), quail, Mediterranean gull…

Eurasian Hobby, Falco subbuteo, hunting for dragonflies, Surrey, June; field
Expect to see more hobbies; numbers are already up by 172%. Picture: SUKB

…and hobby – currently a relatively rare sight – are expected to rise.

And some bird species currently based in southern latitudes may make start to migrate here – such as little bittern and zitting cisticola.

Denia, Alicante (Spain)
Chiffchaff numbers have doubled in winter, as more choose to stay. Picture: Getty Images

Other short-term migrants normally hop over to Europe for the winter – but thanks to Britain’s warmer, wetter winters, more of them are staying in the UK in the dark months. Winter chiffchaffs numbers are already up by 104%; blackcaps by 289%.

And some familiar species are spending more time than ever in the UK.

Birds: Swallow perched on overhead cable with blue sky in the background, hertfordshire.
Swallows are arriving earlier and lingering longer in the milder weather. Picture: SUKB

With spring arriving earlier, swallows are returning to Britain 15 days earlier than they did in the 1960s. And they are staying longer in autumn too – delaying their departure by up to four weeks.

The State of the UK’s Birds is produced by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), together with the UK’s nature conservation bodies: Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland (DAERA), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Natural England (NE) and Natural Resources Wales (NRW). For more details read the full report: State of the UK’s Birds 2017.

Advertisement

• Main picture: Slavonian grebe; courtesy Getty Images