Spoonbill numbers reach all-time high at Holkham


The Holkham Estate has announced that Eurasian Spoonbill has had another bumper summer at the North Norfolk reserve, with 43 pairs successfully fledging a record 77 chicks.

The marshes at Holkham have now seen almost 500 spoonbill chicks since the birds recolonised there 12 years ago. Some 45 pairs bred in 2021.

Given the success, the Holkham Estate has announced plans to extend suitable habitat for spoonbills and other waterbirds across its marshes, with new ditches and islands with trees to futureproof the colony. Other species such as Little, Western Cattle and Great Egrets are also set to benefit.

It's been another bumper summer for Eurasian Spoonbill at Holkham NNR (Ian Bollen).

"It is vital that conservationists can adapt their practices so that birds brought here by climate change from the Mediterranean can have a foothold in the UK," explained Andrew Bloomfield, Senior Warden at Holkham Estate and Founder of the UK Spoonbill Working Group.

Eurasian Spoonbill is rapidly growing in numbers after disappearing from the UK in the late 1600s due to habitat loss and hunting. Until the 20th century, numbers also dropped drastically throughout Europe. More 300 years later, the creation of wetlands and laws protecting certain birds from being shot has helped bring the species back.

Up until 2017 Holkham was the only known nesting site in the UK, but the species has continued to expand its breeding range throughout Britain since then, breeding in Yorkshire for the first time at Fairburn Ings RSPB in 2017, Suffolk for the first time in 300 years at Havergate Island in 2020, and Essex for the first time at Abberton Reservoir in 2021. It also nested at Cley, Norfolk, for the first time in 2022.

On 23 November, Holkham will be hosting an inaugural UK Spoonbill Workshop in collaboration with the RSPB and UK Spoonbill Working Group. Conservationists from around the UK will come together to discuss spoonbills and the best practices to help them thrive. Andrew Bloomfield will be sharing his knowledge on the species and other attendees of note will include Lord Leicester, ecologists from the RSPB and private landowners who now have breeding spoonbills.