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How many species of birds are found in the UK?

Sent in by Rosario Arroyo, Ecuador

The UK is a great place for a wide variety of birdlife. It contains important breeding and wintering sites for many species. We are also visited by many rare vagrants, which have arrived in the UK by mistake after being blown off course, often from North America.

Birds that have been recorded in a wild state in Britain are included on the British list. Some breed here in the millions such as wrens whereas others may have only been seen here once, such as the long-billed murrelet. The British list is maintained by the British Ornithologists Union (BOU) and currently stands at 574 species.

The list is separated into three categories. Category A species are those that have been recorded in an apparently natural state at least once since 1 January 1950. Category B species are those that were recorded in an apparently natural state at least once between 1 January 1800 and 31 December 1949, but have not been recorded subsequently. Category C species have been introduced but now derive from the resulting self-sustaining populations. This includes ring-necked parakeets and mandarins.

There are also categories D and E. Species on these lists are not included on the British list but you could see them in the wild. Category D species would otherwise appear in Category A except that there is reasonable doubt that they have ever occurred in a natural state. This includes birds such as bald eagles. Category E species have been recorded as introductions, human-assisted transportees or escapees from captivity, and whose breeding populations (if any) are thought not to be self-sustaining. This includes black swans and peacocks.

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