Rare birds are becoming vulnerable to extinction in the UK as a result of warming temperatures, a new report warns.
Species such as the dotterel, whimbrel, common scoter and Slavonian grebe are all said to be in danger from the effects of global warming on the UK, according to RSPB research.
A warmer, wetter climate will help some other birds commonly found in the south expand their range further north, the research said.
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Species such as the dotterel (pictured), whimbrel, common scoter and Slavonian grebe are all said to be in danger from the effects of global warming on the UK, according to RSPB research
BIRDS AT RISK
Birds at risk of extinction in the UK from climate change
– Purple sandpipers
– Golden plovers
– Common scoter
– Slavonian grebe
Other birds that have suffered steep population declines
– Shag – down 34 per cent
– Kittiwake – down 44 per cent
– Fulmar – down 31 per cent
– Cormorant – down 8 per cent
– Grate black headed gull – down 11 per cent
– Little tern – down 18 per cent
– Common tern – down 10 per cent
Balmier conditions have benefited several species with southerly distributions in the UK, including the quail, little egret, hobby, and Mediterranean gull.
Other species such as little bittern and zitting cisticola may colonise southern Britain using the UK as a refuge as their home in continental Europe becomes too warm and dry and they shift their distribution northwards.
Short-distance migrants such as blackcaps and chiffchaffs are already benefitting from the warmer, wetter winters that the UK has experienced over recent years and are increasingly wintering here rather than migrating to southern Europe.
Breeding numbers of blackcaps since 1970 have risen by 289 per cent and chiffchaffs by 104 per cent.
While the birds may continue to live in colder climates, one bird – the Scottish crossbill, is at risk of becoming extinct all together, experts fear.
The study is produced by the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) and other nature conservation bodies.
It found climate change is already affecting bird life in the four countries of the UK, which is responding to a 1C (1.8F) increase in average summer temperatures since the 1980s.
‘Birds in the UK are showing changes in abundance and distribution, predominantly moving northwards, in a way that is consistent with a changing climate,’ the report said.
‘Migratory birds are arriving earlier and egg-laying dates have advanced such that swallows, for example, are arriving in the UK 15 days earlier, and breeding 11 days earlier, than they did in the 1960s.’
The purple sandpiper (pictured) is one of the birds at risk of extinction in the UK due to climate change, according to the study
Whimbrel (left) and golden plover (right) are at risk of extinction. Steep population declines have also hit the snow bunting found almost entirely in Scotland
Steep population declines have already hit the dotterel, whimbrel, common scoter and snow bunting found almost entirely in Scotland.
Breeding success of the Slavonian grebe has also been impacted, with Scotland on average 11 per cent wetter between 2007-2016 than it was in 1961-1990.
The report went on: ‘The UK’s kittiwake population has declined by 70 per cent since 1986 because of falling breeding success and adult survival.
A warmer climate will help some birds commonly found in the south expand their range further north, the research said. However, black scoter (left) and curlew (right) are both at risk
‘Climate change has reduced the availability of the sandeels they rely upon in the breeding season.
‘Other species that feed largely on sandeels, such as Arctic skua, Arctic tern and puffin, are at high risk of climate-related decline.’
On a more positive note, the report found that warmer temperatures during the breeding season have had a positive effect on breeding success for a range of species.
Birds that feed insects to their young, such as great tits and chaffinches, have had more offspring in warm, dry springs, while nuthatch, goldfinch and chiffchaff have been expanding their range over the last 30 years from England to Scotland with large increases in numbers north of the border.
Colette Hall, of WWT, said: ‘Each winter, tens of thousands of waterbirds migrate to the UK and our long-running network of volunteer waterbird counters has tracked their changes over decades.
‘Warmer winters on the continent have meant more birds of certain species wintering further east, such as the European white-fronted goose.
‘However, that trend can mask real declines in some species, such as the Bewick’s swan and the common pochard.
‘For this reason, amongst many others, it is vital we continue to monitor our bird populations so we can pinpoint where, and subsequently try to work out why, these changes are happening.’