Rare spoonbills breed in Yorkshire for the first time

Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's

Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's
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Aire Valley - Fairburn Ings and St Aidan's

Rare spoonbills breed in Yorkshire for the first time

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Evidence of spoonbill breeding at Fairburn Ings – a first for Yorkshire and a first for an RSPB reserve.

This rare bird, usually found in southern and eastern Europe, has hatched chicks for the first time in Northern England, at Fairburn!

Spoonbill on the Moat by Andy Francis

Spoonbills had not nested regularly in the UK since the 1700s, however recent years have seen them slowly expanding their range north and returning to Britain once again. Birds are increasingly seen along the east coast of England, and one breeding colony has been established in East Anglia.

The spoonbills have been seen regularly at Fairburn this spring and summer and the warden team and volunteers have been watching them carefully.  They watched lots of nesting behaviour, and then that changed as they appeared to begin sitting on the nest, and then began feeding flights.  They’re currently hidden away deep in the vegetation but we hope they’ll be much more visible when they fledge.

It’s incredibly exciting to see successful spoonbill nesting here at Fairburn, and it makes all the hard habitat management work worthwhile.

Because of their rarity, spoonbills are a specially protected bird in the UK, and their breeding presence at Fairburn Ings has been kept a secret – until now. They are of conservation concern due to lack of suitable habitats, water pollution, and drainage of wetlands for farming and tourism.

This new colony in the North of England represents the wider trend for long-legged water birds moving north. As seen on BBC’s Springwatch, the likes of great white egrets, cattle egrets and black-winged stilts have also started establishing colonies in the UK as a result of climate change drying out their traditional nesting habitats in southern Europe.

The team have affectionately named spoonbill chicks “teaspoons” and will keep you updated on their progress and where to see them when they fledge.

  • Brilliant news, I saw a pair at Alkborough Flats not far from Blacktoft a few weeks ago, an amazing sight.