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East Anglia’s Christmas carol dove joins Red List species facing extinction

Turtle dove'Picture: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com) ANL-151029-152456001
Turtle dove'Picture: Andy Hay (rspb-images.com) ANL-151029-152456001

The turtle dove, whose UK stronghold is East Anglia, has today been added to the global ‘Red List’ of most endangered species.

Once common in farmland across the country, and well known from the 12 Days of Christmas song, half of the remaining UK breeding population of turtle doves are in the eastern region, with the most of the others in south east England. It is now classed ‘vulnerable’ putting it in the same class as the African elephant.

The one common lapwing is now listed as 'Near Threatened'.'' Picture: SWT/Stuart Finey ANL-140812-125748001
The one common lapwing is now listed as 'Near Threatened'.'' Picture: SWT/Stuart Finey ANL-140812-125748001

It is one of four UK birds to join the list of species considered to be facing global extinction after the latest annual revision of birds on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List Endangered Species was announced by BirdLife International on behalf of the IUCN today.

The RSPB says the turtle dove’s population has dropped by 90 per cent in 10 years.

Declines across Europe of more than 30 per cent over the past 16 years have now seen its global threat status rise from ‘Least Concern’ to ‘Vulnerable’, placing it in the same extinction threat category as species like the African elephant and lion.

Scientists from the RSPB and other BirdLife International partners, including the Thetford-Based British Trust for Ornithology, are trying to establish the reasons for the decline in the UK and Europe.

John Sharpe, the RSPB’s Conservation Manager in Eastern England, said: “The news of the increased threat of extinction to turtle doves is not wholly unexpected, but it does throw into sharp relief the dire situation these birds face and the urgency of joined-up conservation efforts across their range if we are to save them.

“In East Anglia, we are working closely with farmers to help create feeding habitat for the birds in the countryside, but as migratory turtle doves only spend a few months of the year in the UK, conservation efforts are also being directed at their wintering grounds in Africa and along their migration route.

“The good news is that we have seen similar population declines reversed, so there is still hope. The stone-curlew, which came close to extinction in the UK in the 1980s, has seen its fortunes reversed thanks to work by the RSPB together with landowners and conservation partners.”

The other three UK birds placed on this year’s IUCN Red List are: Atlantic Puffin, Pochard and Slavonian Grebe.

Other East Anglian birds affected by this year’s revision of the global Red List include several waders, such as the European lapwing, knot, and bar-tailed godwit, all of which have been added to the list of globally ‘Near Threatened’ species, meaning that any further decline in their fortunes will result in them too joining turtle doves in the ‘Vulnerable’ category.

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