Nightjar numbers hit record high across RSPB reserves


The number of European Nightjars at RSPB reserves across England and Wales has hit a record high following decades of conservation work.

 A total of 198 territorial males were recorded during surveys last year, up from 178 in 2021. At many RSPB reserves the increase has been accredited in part to the presence of cattle, pigs, ponies and donkeys, which are used to create a dynamic mosaic of habitats that benefit the species.

European Nightjar numbers across RSPB reserves hit a record high in 2022, up 11% on the previous year (Romano Da Costa).

Typically found on lowland heathland in the UK, nightjar numbers fell in part because of habitat loss and the resulting break-up of connected heathland areas. Work by the RSPB and other conservation organisations to halt the decline has seen the species moved from the Red List to the Amber List.

Survey results from 2022 included a record 60 territorial males at RSPB Arne in Dorset, a number tripled from the 20 males recorded in 1990. Peter Robertson, RSPB Arne senior site manager, said: "This type of wilder grazing system is all about using animals to help create a dynamic mosaic of habitats.

"They are constantly changing things on a small scale – breaking up vegetation, creating bare ground as they pass through, and moving plants around in their dung and hooves. It's the dung that attracts insects such as dung beetles which are great nightjar food."