One in four species in Wales ‘in serious trouble’

Greenfinches are among the birds added to the RSPB Cymru Red List of Declining Species

One in four bird species seen regularly in Wales is in “serious trouble”, the latest assessment has revealed.

Familiar birds such as the swift, greenfinch and rook are among five added to the red list of declining species since the last report in 2016.

RSPB Cymru’s report of 220 species put 69 on the green list (not in decline), 91 on the orange list (moderate decline) and 60 on the red list (needs help).

Its species leader, Julian Hughes, said it should be a “wake up call”.

The number of birds on the red list has more than doubled since 2002 – from 27 to 60.

The corn bunting and corncrake have been declared extinct as breeding birds in Wales, while the marsh harrier and bittern have returned after two decades of wetland restoration.

The future of many upland, grassland and wading birds such as the curlew, blueshank and lapwing remains a major concern.

red kite

The red kite, which has moved from the orange list to the green list, is seen as an example of how nature can recover

“Nature needs us more than ever,” said Patrick Linley, senior birder at Natural Resources Wales (NRW), explaining how “birds are a good indicator of the state of our natural environment.”

“Our skies are starting to get quiet,” he warned.

“If you were to go back 20 or 30 years, for every 10 breeding curlews you heard in the sky, you would probably only hear three today.”

Amid all the bad news, he said there was “real hope” as red kites had recovered from the brink of extinction in the 1980s for “about 2,500 breeding pairs in the country. of Wales”.

Patrick Linley, NRW

Wales’ top ornithologist Patrick Linley says birds such as the curlew are rapidly disappearing

Work commissioned by NRW has suggested the curlew could be on the verge of extinction in Wales within the next decade without urgent intervention.

“We really need to address this issue and resolve it urgently,” Mr Hughes said.

He said the proposed sustainable agriculture scheme for Wales would be important ‘because so many of our wild bird species depend on agricultural activity’.

The report indicates a rapid decline in the numbers of breeding towers and wintering purple sandpipers, which, along with the deteriorating global status of Leach’s petrel, has seen these species turn from green to red in just six years.


The curlew could be extinct as a breeding bird in Wales by 2033

Swifts turned red and house swifts amber for the first time after changes to their nesting habitat and flying insect food sources in Wales and Africa.

A severe outbreak of trichomoniasis, a parasitic infection, has been a major factor in the decline of the once familiar garden bird, the greenfinch.

It is now on the red list after a population crash of 71% since 1995.


Greenfinch numbers, once a common site in Welsh gardens, have fallen by 71% in 27 years

Experts said bird population assessments have demonstrated the importance of long-term monitoring and volunteer involvement.

Kelvin Jones of the British Trust for Ornithology Cymru said birdwatchers need to get involved.

“These aren’t hard polls. Most people have the ability to do it, they just need a bit of confidence and a push. But it’s the easiest way to give back to nature.”

Rook in the dandelions

Turrets moved from the green list of species of least concern to the red list of species in decline

Dan Rouse, an educator with Tadorna Wildlife, based at Botanic Gardens of Wales, said people could help reduce the impact of bacterial infections on birds with good practices such as “move your feeders, clean your feeders every week or every two weeks with hot water and Fairy liquid”.

The Welsh Government said it was “working urgently to ensure that 30% of Welsh land, sea and freshwater is used solely for nature by 2030 to help halt the decline of the biodiversity”.

He added: “We have tripled our targets to recover valuable habitats for our birds and wildlife, and are working with Natural Resources Wales on projects to help critically endangered species.

“As part of our sustainable agriculture program proposals, we require farmers to provide at least 10% tree cover and use at least 10% of their land to enhance semi-natural habitats.”

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