29/10/2015
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Puffin and Turtle Dove among British birds added to IUCN Red List

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Four of the UK's bird species, including Puffin and Turtle Dove, have today [Thursday 29 October 2015] been added to the list of birds considered to be facing the risk of global extinction. The latest annual revision of birds on the IUCN Red List, which has been announced by BirdLife International on behalf of the IUCN, doubles the number of UK bird species considered to be facing the risk of extinction to eight.

The IUCN Red List assesses the threat of extinction for each bird species. Those with no immediate threat of extinction are listed as Least Concern. Those species considered to be facing a threat of global extinction are listed in three levels of descending threat: Critically Endangered; Endangered; and Vulnerable.

Shockingly, a further 14 UK species are considered to be Near Threatened, meaning that any further deterioration in their status could see them added to the Red List too.

Turtle Dove
Turtle Dove has declined massively in Britain (Photo: Chris Griffin)

Martin Harper, RSPB's Conservation Director, said: "Today's announcement means that the global wave of extinction is now lapping at our shores. The number of species facing extinction has always been highest in the tropics, particularly on small islands. But now the crisis is beginning to exact an increasingly heavy toll on temperate regions too, such as Europe.

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"The erosion of the UK's wildlife is staggering and this is reinforced when you talk about Puffin and Turtle Dove now facing the same level of extinction threat as African elephant and lion, and being more endangered than Humpback Whale."

The global revision also captures the crisis facing other birds around the world, including vultures, where several African species have been listed as Critically Endangered – one step away from facing global extinction. In Africa, vultures are facing persecution and they are regularly poisoned or trapped.

Examining the list of changes among the UK's birds to this year's Red List, several themes emerge, including: deterioration in the fortunes of some seabirds, such as Puffin and Razorbill; an ongoing and increasingly intense threat to wading birds, such as godwits, Eurasian Curlew, Oystercatcher, Knot and Lapwing; and an increasing deterioration in the status of marine ducks, such as Eider, joining Velvet Scoter and Long-tailed Duck as species of concern.

The four species added to the Red List are as follows:

  • Turtle Dove: Declines across Europe exceeding 30 per cent over the past 16 years have seen its threat status rise from Least Concern to Vulnerable. Scientists from the RSPB and other BirdLife International partners are trying to establish the reasons for the decline in the UK and Europe. The decline in the UK has been particularly high, with more than nine out of every ten birds being lost since the 1970s.
  • Puffin: Globally, this seabird is concentrated in Europe. Although its global population remains in the millions, breeding failures at some key colonies over recent years have been worryingly high, with many fewer young birds being recruited into the breeding population. These declines mean the species has been assessed as Vulnerable. Large declines have been reported in Iceland, the Faroe Islands and Norway, which together hold 80 per cent of the European population. In the UK, there have been significant losses on Fair Isle and the Shetland Islands, but elsewhere in the UK this seabird seems to be doing well.

Puffin
Puffin is faring well in some parts of the UK, but is struggling overall (Photo: Paul Watkins)

  • Slavonian Grebe: this species occurs across North America, northern Europe and northern Asia. The bulk of its population occurs in North America where it has undergone a large and significant decrease. This decline has triggered the inclusion of the Slavonian grebe on the list of species evaluated as Vulnerable. However, new information collated from across Europe suggests the Slavonian grebe is declining here too. In the UK, the number of nesting Slavonian Grebes, all in the Scottish Highlands, have declined although those wintering round the UK's coasts have increased.
  • Pochard: recent information collated from across Europe indicates that this duck has declined significantly in recent years and that this decline is ongoing. Globally, Pochard has been uplisted to Vulnerable. In the UK, the numbers of nesting Pochard and the number of wintering individuals have declined markedly.
Written by: RSPB