Drier countryside threatens future of wetland birds

A A A

Populations of British wetland birds such as lapwing, redshank and snipe have declined seriously over the past 20 years because the landscape has become drier.

Populations of British wetland birds such as lapwing, redshank and snipe have declined seriously over the past 20 years because the landscape has become drier.

Snipe are in danger of disappearing from parts of England and Wales, a survey by the British Trust for Ornithology reveals. Once common in the flood meadows of lowland river valleys, it is now only likely to be found breeding in a few nature reserves.

The Breeding Waders of Wet Meadows survey shows that, since 1982, 60 per cent of snipe, 40 per cent of lapwing and curlew and 20 per cent of redshank have disappeared. The report says the three species of wading bird only thrive when their habitats are managed for wildlife. Six sites that are nature reserves or are managed for wildlife harbour half of the population of the three species.

The trust said half of the sites visited had no breeding waders. Snipe is particularly at risk: in the West Midlands only four were recorded from 106 sites.

Phil Rothwell, head of countryside policy at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, said: "Seeing lapwing, snipe and redshank in spring should be a familiar part of the countryside and it is a tragedy that once-widespread birds are now largely confined to the oases of nature reserves within the desert of the wider countryside.

"Once common and wide-spread, these charismatic species are no longer familiar to all. To halt further declines we need urgent action through a range of government-backed measures, such as more funding for wildlife-friendly farming and measures to restore wetland areas to our countryside.''

The RSPB said that mead-ows bordering rivers were being grazed more intensively, which destroyed grassy hummocks where wading birds nested, or used to grow crops.

The Great Ouse river had lost almost all of its potential breeding areas for waders in Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire because of intensive cereal growing. But nearer the coast, the birds were thriving in the Ouse Washes area.

The other managed sites are the Lower Derwent valley in East and North Yorkshire, the Nene Washes in Cambridgeshire, the Norfolk Broads, the Somerset Levels and the North Kent marshes, an area threatened by plans for an international airport.

FALLING FAST

LAPWING

Known also as the peewit, it is found on farmland where it feeds on crops.

SNIPE

Tail feather produces distinctive 'whirring' sound in flight. Feeds on small invertebrates.

REDSHANK

Feeds on insects and crustacea. Found on lake fringes, wet meadows and marshlands, particularly in coastal areas.

CURLEW

Ringing 'cour-li' call, Europe's largest wading bird favours mud-flats, estuaries and wetlands.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?