British bird faces extinction as habitat disappears

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Curlew facing extinction

The curlew with its distinctive call and long curved bill is under threat as experts warn the species faces extinction world-wide.

In Britain they are a regular site on coastal marshes and mud-flats easily identifiable by their long legs and curved bill.

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But ornithologists report that although curlew species occur on all continents except Antarctica some species may already have become extinct.

Nicola Crockford, policy officer for the RSPB, said: "The Eurasian curlew is an iconic species - its appearance in spring is announced by one of nature's most evocative calls.

"Sadly like many species the Eurasian curlew is in trouble and their numbers have dropped dramatically, putting them at risk of disappearing completely from the UK."

The three that are found in the UK, the Eurasian curlew, Bar-tailed godwit and Black-tailed godwit, are all reported to be "near threatened" according to a recent assessment by more than 100 experts.

Credits: Neil Buchanan

Neil Buchanan

The major problem is the loss of non-breeding habitats - most species rely on coastal estuaries and wetlands which face increasing development and disturbance.

All curlew and godwit species nest on the ground in open landscapes and the deterioration of these habitats caused by changes in agricultural practices, drainage and tree planting.

Climate change is also likely to be an increasing threat as well as a growing threat from predators like foxes.

James Pearce-Higgins, director of science at the Norfolk-based British Trust for Ornithology said: "These long-lived wader species require wild open landscapes for breeding, and generally occupy undisturbed coastal habitats at other times of the year.

"Many are long-distance migrants and vulnerable to change throughout their annual cycle and are among the most sensitive bird species to global change.

"That over half of the species studied are rapidly declining globally emphasises the impact we are having upon the planet.

"Their long-term future may well depend upon how well we coordinate international efforts to adopt the recommendations of this paper and support their conservation."

Britain's favourite bird

Britain's favourite bird