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Rare yellow bird's-nest discovered at RSPB Scotland Skinflats

Last modified: 09 September 2016

Tidal pool at Skinflats nature reserve

Skinflats is a small nature reserve that sits on the edge of the River Forth

Image: David Palmar

An usual plant with a complex relationship to its surroundings has been found growing at RSPB Scotland Skinflats.

The yellow bird’s-nest was uncovered in an area of scrubby woodland at the Forth reserve, only the fourth time it has been seen in Scotland since 2000. All other records were at sites near Glasgow.

The flower is pale yellow in colour due to the fact that it lacks the green pigment chlorophyll, which is vital for photosynthesis. This means that instead of using the sun’s rays to create energy, yellow bird’s-nest has to look elsewhere for food.

RSPB Scotland’s Niall Traynor, the warden who discovered the plant, said: “Yellow bird’s-nest is very unusual and interesting, and as a fungus buff I was really very excited to find it growing so close to where I work!

“Yellow bird’s-nest is unique in the way it gains its energy. It steals nutrients from a type of fungi which in turn is gaining its food thanks to a mutual relationship with nearby trees.

“This complicated relationship may well be one of the reasons it’s so rare in Scotland, though a lack of the right type of habitat is likely to be another factor. Either way, I feel very lucky to have found it, and I’ll be making studies of the woodland in the coming months to learn more about it and make sure it’s properly protected.”

RSPB Scotland Skinflats is a small nature reserve that sits on the edge of the River Forth. Its expanse of salt marsh and mud flats provides a rich winter feeding ground for wading birds like oyster catchers and curlews, particularly in the autumn and winter.

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