Birds of Conservation Concern 5 – the latest assessment of the status of all the UK’s 245 regularly occurring bird species – has been published (Wednesday 1 December 2021).
This latest assessment shows that 70 species are now of 'highest conservation concern' and have been placed on the assessment’s Red List. In addition to the 70 species on the Red list, 103 species have been placed on the Amber list and 72 on the Green list. Worryingly, the Red List now accounts for more than one-quarter (29%) of UK species, more than ever before. Amongst the new additions to the Red List are the Swift, House Martin, Greenfinch, and Bewick’s Swan.
Most of the species were placed on the Red List because of their severe declines, having halved in numbers or range in the UK in recent decades. Others remain well below historical levels or are considered under threat of global extinction.
The report also raises concerns over the status of wintering waterbird populations, with species such as Bewick's Swan joining the Red list. With the climate across European warming, some birds that breed in the Arctic are ‘short-stopping' in eastern Europe rather than flying to Britain.
JNCC’s Director of Ecosystem Evidence and Advice, Dr Steve Wilkinson, said: "It is concerning to see three more long-distance migrants added to the UK Red List (Swift, House Martin and Bewick’s Swan). We will continue to work with overseas partners to better understand the challenges faced by birds such as House Martin and Swift as they make their annual round trip between the UK and wintering grounds in Africa. Only through co-operation with countries along these flyways can we hope to protect migrants like Bewick’s Swan whose distribution is shifting in a rapidly changing climate."
The assessment does, however, also contain some good news and demonstrates that targeted conservation action can make a real difference. The UK’s largest bird of prey, the White-tailed Eagle, has moved from the Red to the Amber list as a result of decades of conservation work including reintroductions and increased protection.
Birds of Conservation Concern 5 is a report compiled by the Birds of Conservation Concern partnership, a coalition of the UK’s leading bird conservation and monitoring organisations, which comprises the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust, Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), Natural England, Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Natural Resources Wales, NatureScot, and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). The partnership reviews the status of all regularly occurring birds in the UK, Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Each species was assessed against a set of objective criteria and placed on either the Green, Amber or Red List, indicating an increasing level of conservation concern.