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Report shows fewer birds likely to be seen on Cornish estuaries and coasts

Last modified: 15 August 2008

Ringed plover

Wading birds visiting UK sites, such as the Hayle Estuary, are in decline according to the latest 'State of the UK's Birds' report.

The country's estuaries are often of international importance for the birds, which migrate here after departing from more northerly or easterly breeding grounds each summer.

During the 1990s their numbers were rising, but species, including purple sandpipers, ringed plovers and dunlins have decreased in number by more than 59, 13 and 21 % respectively between 1979/90 and 2004/05 and the decline is largely thought to be down to birds wintering elsewhere in Europe where conditions are becoming more suitable.

The report confirms that the dunlin, which used to the UK's most numerous wading bird in winter, is now at its lowest level since records began.

Despite the fact that Hayle is the country's most south-westerly estuary, hardly ever freezing and providing vital refuge for birds in harsh winters, the findings indicate there are likely to be fewer birds to be seen here and on other estuaries such as the Tamar.

'We've been aware for a while that as winters become warmer elsewhere, fewer birds are coming to Cornish sites and this year's report confirms that.'

The RSPB's Dave Flumm said: 'We've been aware for a while that as winters become warmer elsewhere, fewer birds are coming to Cornish sites and this year's report confirms that.'

Other birds affected

The State of the UK's Birds 2007 report, produced by a coalition of three NGOs: the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, and the UK Government's nature conservation agencies such as Natural England, also shows that birds are being affected by climate change in other ways too.

Information from the British Trust for Ornithology's Nest Record Scheme - incorporated in report for the first time - shows that birds like chaffinches are, on average, laying their eggs about a week earlier than in the mid 1960s. Information on other species, such as blue and great tits, robins and swallows, shows a similar pattern.

This year's report also looks at the plight of the Balearic shearwater – the only 'critically endangered' bird to regularly visit the UK. A significant proportion of the word's population makes use of Cornish coastal waters and the area appears to be becoming more important for them as the climate changes.

RSPB Conservation Director Dr Mark Avery, said: 'This year's report shows that climate change is with us already and from our gardens to our seas, birds are having to respond rapidly simply to survive. As often before, birds are acting like the canaries in a mine shaft and giving us early warning of dangerous change.'

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The state of the UK's Birds 2007 (620Kb)
A detailed look at the fortunes of birds throughout the UK and in its Overseas Territories.

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