South east bird faces risk of extinction

Turtle dove. Photo by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)
Turtle dove. Photo by Andy Hay (rspb-images.com)

A bird commonly found in the south east is at risk of global extinction according to new information published last week.

The European Turtle Dove is one of four UK birds to join the list of species considered to be facing extinction after the latest annual revision of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List Endangered Species was announced by BirdLife International, on behalf of the IUCN, on Thursday (October 29).

According to the RSPB the south east region is one of the last remaining areas in the UK where turtle doves continue to breed.

Over half of the remaining UK population of turtle doves can be found in the eastern region, with the vast majority of the others found in south east England.

Turtle doves are already on the UK Red List due to the loss of more than nine out of every ten birds in this country over the last 50 years.

The charity says declines across Europe of more than 30 per cent over the past 16 years have now seen its global threat status rise from ‘least concern’ to ‘vulnerable’, placing it in the same extinction threat category as species like the African elephant and lion.

Marc Fletcher, the RSPB’s reserves manager for the south east region, said: “The news of the increased threat of extinction to turtle doves is not wholly unexpected, but it does throw into sharp relief the dire situation these birds face and the urgency of joined-up conservation efforts across their range if we are to save them.

“Here in South East England, we are working closely with farmers to help create feeding habitat for the birds in the countryside, but as migratory turtle doves only spend a few months of the year in the UK.

“Conservation efforts are also being directed at their wintering grounds in Africa and along their migration route.

“The good news is that we have seen similar population declines reversed, so there is still hope.

“The stone-curlew, which came close to extinction in the UK in the 1980s, has seen its fortunes reversed thanks to work by the RSPB together with landowners and conservation partners, which has seen the bird’s population in the UK treble in the last 30 years.”

Across the South East Region, the RSPB offers year round telephone advice to farmers on how to create a home for species such as turtle doves on their land whilst maintaining a successful farming business.

RSPB advisers can also visit farms across the region, to provide wildlife friendly farming advice, including planning Countryside Stewardship options. Landowners can apply for funding from Countryside Stewardship schemes to introduce wildlife friendly areas on their sites from January 2016.

Other south east England birds affected by this year’s revision of the global Red List include several waders, such as the European lapwing, which has been added to the list of globally ‘near threatened’ species, meaning that any further decline will result in them too joining turtle doves in the ‘vulnerable’ category.

This year’s update doubled the total number of UK birds on the Red List of Endangered Species and added nine birds to the near threatened category.

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