More than a quarter of bird species in the UK are now critically endangered, experts have warned, as populations have declined sharply over the past 25 years.
Some 70 of the 245 birds assessed in the UK are on the ‘red list’ – meaning they are of greatest conservation concern due to severe declines, numbers well below historical levels or the risk of global extinction, according to a new assessment.
Greenfinches, Swifts, House Swallows and Berwick’s Swans are among those added to the most recent list of conservation birds produced by major UK conservation organizations including RSPB, National Trust and BirdLife International.
The species appear on the list either because they are threatened with extinction all over the world or because their numbers have fallen dramatically in the UK.
The latest update to the UK Red List for Birds, carried out by a coalition of UK’s leading bird conservation organizations, is longer than it has ever been, with a figure nearly double what it was at the first assessment in 1996.
The assessment covers 245 species occurring regularly in the UK, the Channel Islands and the Isle of Man and classifies them in the red, amber or green categories depending on the degree of threat they are considered.
Newly Red Listed Species Include Swifts, House Swallows, Ptarmigan, Purple Sandpiper, Montagu’s Harrier and Greenfinch, warns assessment from groups such as the British Trust for Ornithology, RSPB, Wildlife Trusts and National Trust.
Overall, the Red List has increased by three species since the last assessment in 2015, with 11 more birds on the Red List, but six have moved to amber and two are no longer assessed.
The amber list has increased by seven species while the green list – of the least endangered birds – has decreased by nine species.
Farmland and upland birds have seen no improvement in their “situation of concern”, with more red lists in the latest assessment, while the status of long-distance migrants to Africa continues to decline.
Swifts have gone from the amber to red list in the face of a 58% drop in their populations since 1995 and house swallows are joining them due to a 57% drop since 1969, joining other birds that migrate to the Sub-Saharan Africa such as cuckoos and nightingales.
Greenfinches have moved from the green list to the red list following a crash of 62% of the population since 1993 due to a serious outbreak of trichomoniasis.
Environmentalists said the disease had spread through contaminated food and drinking water, and urged owners to regularly clean bird feeders and temporarily stop distributing food if sick birds are seen so to slow down the spread.
Experts have also raised concerns over waterfowl and wading populations that overwinter in the UK, such as Bewick’s swans, Goldeneye and Dunlin, which have joined the Red List. , with pressures such as illegal hunting abroad, ingestion of lead ammunition and climate change.
Leach Oceanite and Black-legged Kittiwakes are among the Red List birds threatened with global extinction.
Best news, successful reintroduction projects have helped white-tailed eagles – which disappeared in the UK as breeding birds over a century ago – move from the Red List to the Amber List.
Song thrush, magpie flycatcher, and wagtail have changed from red to amber, although they remain close to the threshold of the most at-risk category, as have red wing and black redstart.
The colonization of the UK by new birds – in large part due to human-induced climate change – saw five new species, including the great white egret, the cattle egret and the black-winged stilt added to the last review.
RSPB chief executive Beccy Speight said the assessment was “further proof that UK wildlife is in free fall and that not enough is being done to reverse the decline”.
She warned, “As with our climate, this is truly the last-ditch fair to stop and reverse the destruction of nature.
“We often know what steps we need to take to change the situation, but we need to do a lot more, quickly and on a large scale. “
Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust research director Dr Andrew Hoodless said more farmland and upland birds have been added to the red list.
“We need to better understand the effects of climate change on certain species, as well as the impacts of changing habitats and food availability along migration routes and in the wintering areas of migrants from sub-Saharan Africa.” , did he declare.
“For many Red Listed species, however, improving breeding success in the UK is vital – we can and must make real and immediate improvements to this through better engagement with farmers, British land managers and game wardens to encourage the adoption of effective sets of conservation measures. . “
The analysis comes after a joint report by the RSPB, BirdLife International and the Czech Ornithological Society found that around 600 million breeding birds have been lost in the EU and UK since 1980 .
According to the report, released on November 16, a significant proportion of these losses are the result of massive declines in the most common and abundant bird species.
The largest population decline is observed in the house sparrow with 247 million fewer individuals. This represents a 50 percent loss since 1980.
The tree sparrow also lost 30 million birds. The report says both have been affected by changes in agricultural policy and management. They say a decline in urban populations may be linked to a food shortage, the spread of avian malaria, or the effects of air pollution.
Next come the Spring Wagtail with 97, the Starling with 75 and the Skylark with 68 million fewer individuals.