UK’s birds face threat of local extinction

More than a quarter of Britain’s birds are at risk of local extinction, a new study has warned.


The latest assessment of the UK’s 244 bird species by the Birds of Conservation Concern 4 shows that 67 species have been placed on the ‘red list’ – meaning they are now of “highest conservation concern” and at serious risk of local extinction.


This new report shows that the red list now accounts for 27% of the UK’s bird population, with 15 new species of bird added to the list since the last assessment in 2009. Notable additions include puffin, nightingale and curlew.

Other key findings show that the largest growth area in the red list is in upland species, with five more added, including most notably the curlew – Europe’s largest wading bird.

Additionally, there is also concern for breeding seabirds with the addition of puffin, kittiwake and shag to the list. Farmland birds also remain a major concern with 12 species continuing to decline, with the turtledove at particular risk.

However, the report shows that there are still more woodland birds on the red list than of any other habitat, with the woodcock, nightingale and pied flycatcher the newest additions.

Kendrew Colhoun, Senior Conservation Scientist at RSPB Northern Ireland, said: “This update highlights the staggering erosion of the UK’s wildlife and is reinforced when you see once common and much loved species such as curlew and puffin being made of highest conservation concern in the UK. It is now more important than ever we address these challenges and work to halt these shocking declines.”

According to the report, climate change may be having a negative impact on some of the red listed birds, as it disrupts marine food chains for seabirds and affects migration.

On a more positive note, the report also provides evidence that conservation work is working, as two species, the bittern and nighthar, have been moved off the Red List to Amber, and there has been an increase of 14 species on the Green List.

Source: RSPB

Total number of UK bird species listed in Birds of Conservation Concern, 2009 and 2015:

Lists 2009 2015
Red 52 species 67* species
Amber 126 species 97 species
Green 68 species 80 species
Total species 246 244

*The Red List has grown by 15 since the last assessment in 2009.Twenty species have been added, but three have moved to the amber list and two are now no longer assessed as they have ceased breeding in the UK.