Goldcrest numbers plummet after harsh winter conditions
Britain's smallest bird, the tiny goldcrest, may have suffered a population crash after being hit extremely hard by the harsh conditions of last winter, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) said yesterday.
Confirming fears that the species, which had been increasing in number because of the warmer winters of the past two decades, would suffer a serious reverse in the freeze, the BTO said the number of gardens in which goldcrests were spotted had fallen by almost half.
Across the British Isles, the tiny birds, which, at just 6g each, weigh less than a 10p piece, were seen in 48 per cent fewer gardens between January and March than on average, with declines reaching 60 per cent in Scotland, the South-west and the east of England.
The reduction in the number of gardens where goldcrests were resident over the winter months was an "early warning" of possible major declines in the population as a whole, the BTO said.
In winter, goldcrests visit gardens in larger numbers to feed on fat-based foods put out by householders, and in the unusually snowy and icy conditions which gripped the UK and Ireland earlier this year they would be expected to be seen in more gardens.
The declines, observed by people taking part in its year-round weekly Garden BirdWatch, suggest a crash in the population at large, the BTO warned.
Dr Tim Harrison, of Garden BirdWatch, said goldcrests were not able to carry much in the way of food reserves and were vulnerable to starvation. Because they are so small – just 9cm (3.5in) long – they also run a higher risk of becoming chilled, he added.
Other small birds also suffered in the cold weather, with tiny wrens seen in 22 per cent fewer gardens than over the long-term average from 1995 to 2009, and treecreepers spotted in 15 per cent fewer backyards.
Dr Harrison added: "The goldcrest is a 'boom-and-bust' species – after cold winters only a quarter of the autumn population may be left to breed, but numbers can rally with pairs sometimes rearing more than 15 chicks in the following spring and summer."
SeaWorld in US tries to reverse falling audiences after film showing effects of captivity
Chinese ivory trade blamed as poachers drive down elephant population by 2% a year
Twitch and shout: Birdwatchers are raving over rare birds in Britain
Investigation launched after manatee drowns at Paris zoo
Conjoined gray whale calves discovered in Mexican lagoon could be world's first ever documented find, experts say
- 1 The way the police have treated Cliff Richard is completely unacceptable
- 2 Michael Brown shooting: Amnesty International sends team within US for first time as National Guard deployed
- 3 Michael Brown shooting: Ferguson police shoot and kill second young black man
- 4 James Foley 'beheaded': Isis video shows militant with British accent 'execute US journalist' – and warns Obama of more to come
- 5 Reading Festival 2014: Tesco branch replaces salad and potatoes for Jagermesiter and vodka
Isis threat: Cameron wants an alliance with Iran
Scottish independence: English people overwhelmingly want Scotland to stay in the UK
Crisis? What crisis? A visiting US doctor gives the NHS a rave review
Russell Brand calls for Israel boycott: Comedian urges big businesses that 'facilitate the oppression of people in Gaza' to pull funding
Ukip MEP calls for reintroduction of death penalty on fiftieth anniversary of last deaths
Michael Brown shooting: Chaos erupts on the streets of Ferguson after autopsy shows teenager was shot six times – twice in the head
£350 - £400 per day: Orgtel: HR Analyst - Banking - Bristol - £350 - £400 per ...
£16 - £17 per hour: Ashdown Group: Marketing & PR Assistant - Kentish Town are...
£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...
£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...