Rare birds killed off after migration north sees them face freezing temperatures back in UK

Remains of 8 malnourished stone curlews recently back from Africa and Spain found in Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire

A A A

Rare birds have fallen victim to Britain’s prolonged cold weather with the bodies of several breeds found dead across the country.

The remains of eight malnourished stone curlews – one of the UK’s most threatened birds, recently returned from their wintering grounds in Africa and Spain – were discovered in fields in Norfolk, Suffolk and Wiltshire in the past few days, the RSPB has reported.

The malnourished creatures, which weighed around 300g each compared to a healthy weight of 450g, are believed to have died after struggling to find enough food to survive following their annual migration to the UK.

A number of puffins and other seabirds including razorbills and guillemots were found dead off the coast of Scotland and North East England two weeks ago as a result of continuous freezing conditions and stormy seas making it hard to find food.

There have also been reports of short-eared owls and barn owls found dead after cold weather hindered their ability to hunt.

The late onset of spring has meant a lack of activity usual for this time of year. An influx of migrant birds should be returning to British shores to breed and build nests, but conservationists have noted very little activity. There has been a much lower number of sightings of chiffchaffs, willow warblers and blackcaps than is usual for this time of year, which is worrying given last year’s poor breeding season.

A number of birds have been confused by lower than normal temperatures. Winter migrants like waxwings, fieldfares and redwings are still present in large numbers across the countryside, showing little sign of preparing to head north. Starling murmurations – traditionally a winter evening spectacle – were recorded as late as the Easter weekend in areas including Swindon and Aberystwyth Pier.

RSPB conservation director Martin Harper said: “I can’t remember a spring like this – nature has really been tested by a prolonged period of very cold weather.

“We should be hearing the sound of chiffchaffs calling from the trees – a classic sign that spring is here – but that isn’t the case. Some may have stalled on their migration route, while for others the severe lack of insect food available means they are conserving what little energy they have.

“The discovery of eight stone curlews is a stark reminder of how fragile this species is. This amounts to around one per cent of the total UK population of these birds but the total number of deaths is likely to be higher.  Many of these birds are only here because of the dedication of farmers who have been creating safe habitats for them in key areas.”

Where's my dinner? What the birds are missing out on

  • Stone-curlews generally feed on invertebrates found in short-grazed semi-natural grassland or in areas within 1 km of their nest site.
  • Puffins and razorbills feed on small fish including sand eels, herring, hake and capelin. During winter they also eat crustaceans.
  • Short-eared and barn owls thrive on small mammals like shrews, voles, rats, and mice. They also eat large insects, and occasionally smaller birds.
  • Chiffchaffs like willow warblers consume insects such as midges and other flies. They will also eat berries and fruit in autumn.
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Benedict Cumberbatch is reported to be in final negotiations to play Doctor Strange for Marvel although the casting has not yet been confirmed
film
Arts and Entertainment
Alloysious Massaquoi, 'G' Hastings and Kayus Bankole of Young Fathers are the surprise winners of this year's Mercury Music Prize
musicThe surprise winners of the Mercury Prize – and a very brief acceptance speech
Arts and Entertainment
TV Presenters Ant McPartlin and Dec Donnelly. Winners of the 'Entertainment Programme' award for 'Ant and Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway'
musicAnt and Dec confirmed as hosts of next year's Brit Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Orson Welles made Citizen Kane at 25, and battled with Hollywood film studios thereafter
film
News
video
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

English Teacher

£100 - £125 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: English Teacher - Saffron ...

Primary Supply Teacher - Northants

£90 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Leicester: Primary School Supply Teache...

Maths Teacher

£21000 - £35000 per day: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Maths Teacher - Saffro...

Chemistry Teacher - Top School in Malaysia - January Start

£18000 - £20400 per annum + Accommodation, Flights, Medical Cover: Randstad Ed...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: A general reveals the lack of communication with the US - and his country's awkward relationship with their allies-by-default

A Syrian general speaks

A senior officer of Bashar al-Assad’s regime talks to Robert Fisk about his army’s brutal struggle with Isis, in a dirty war whose challenges include widespread atrocities
‘A bit of a shock...’ Cambridge economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

‘A bit of a shock...’ Economist with Glasgow roots becomes Zambia’s acting President

Guy Scott's predecessor, Michael Sata, died in a London hospital this week after a lengthy illness
Fall of the Berlin Wall: History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War

Fall of the Berlin Wall

History catches up with Erich Honecker - the East German leader who praised the Iron Curtain and claimed it prevented a Third World War
How to turn your mobile phone into easy money

Turn your mobile phone into easy money

There are 90 million unused mobiles in the UK, which would be worth £7bn if we cashed them in, says David Crookes
Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs:

Independent writers remember their Saturday jobs

"I have never regarded anything I have done in "the media" as a proper job"
Lyricist Richard Thomas shares his 11-step recipe for creating a hit West End musical

11-step recipe for creating a West End hit

Richard Thomas, the lyricist behind the Jerry Springer and Anna Nicole Smith operas, explains how Bob Dylan, 'Breaking Bad' and even Noam Chomsky inspired his songbook for the new musical 'Made in Dagenham'
Tonke Dragt's The Letter for the King has finally been translated into English ... 50 years on

Buried treasure: The Letter for the King

The coming-of-age tale about a boy and his mission to save a mythical kingdom has sold a million copies since it was written by an eccentric Dutchwoman in 1962. Yet until last year, no one had read it in English
Can instilling a sense of entrepreneurship in pupils have a positive effect on their learning?

The school that means business

Richard Garner heads to Lancashire, where developing the 'dragons' of the future is also helping one community academy to achieve its educational goals
10 best tablets

The world in your pocket: 10 best tablets

They’re thin, they’re light, you can use them for work on the move or keeping entertained
Lutz Pfannenstiel: The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents

Lutz Pfannenstiel interview

The goalkeeper who gave up Bayern Munich for the Crazy Gang, Bradford and a whirlwind trawl across continents
Pete Jenson: Popular Jürgen Klopp can reignite Borussia Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern Munich

Pete Jenson's a Different League

Popular Klopp can reignite Dortmund’s season with visit to Bayern
John Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

Cantlie video proves that Isis expects victory in Kobani

The use of the British hostage demonstrates once again the militants' skill and originality in conducting a propaganda war, says Patrick Cockburn
The killer instinct: The man who helps students spot potential murderers

The killer instinct

Phil Chalmers travels the US warning students how to spot possible future murderers, but can his contentious methods really stop the bloodshed?
Clothing the gap: A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd

Clothing the gap

A new exhibition celebrates women who stood apart from the fashion herd
Fall of the Berlin Wall: Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain

The Fall of the Berlin Wall

Goodbye to all that - the lost world beyond the Iron Curtain