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Last Updated: Friday, 20 August, 2004, 07:12 GMT 08:12 UK
Corncrake enjoys resurgence
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Online environment correspondent

A corncrake
The corncrake is a relative of the coot and moorhen
UK birdlovers are delighted that an attempt to re-establish the corncrake in England appears to be going well.

A group of month-old corncrake chicks has been spotted on the reserve where they are being released in England.

The State of the UK's Birds 2003 says the corncrake is one of 12 threatened species whose numbers are increasing.

But 13 others continue to decline, and two - the red-backed shrike and the wryneck - are now said to be "virtually extinct" as breeding birds in the UK.

Fightback starts

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, the Zoological Society of London and English Nature are collaborating in the Corncrake Project.

It released 55 young birds at the RSPB's Nene Washes reserve in Cambridgeshire in 2003, and 59 more this year. The chicks just sighted are thought to be the offspring of a female bird seen on the reserve.

Corncrake chick   Grahame Madge
One of the new corncrake chicks (Image: Grahame Madge)
The corncrake (Crex crex), a relative of the coot and moorhen, nests in Scottish hay meadows and other grasslands where there is dense vegetation.

A summer visitor from sub-Saharan Africa, it is the most threatened bird in the world to nest regularly in the UK.

The State of the UK's Birds is published by the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

It says there has been "a welcome increase in the numbers of a dozen of our most threatened birds" whose populations have increased over the last decade.

No farmland recovery

They include the stone-curlew, song thrush, cirl bunting, corncrake, capercaillie, bittern and tree sparrow.

Conservation work for several birds of prey, including the osprey, red kite and white-tailed eagle, shows what the report calls "encouraging" results.

Red-backed shrike   Mike Richards/RSPB Images
A male red-backed shrike feeds his chicks (Image: Mike Richards/RSPB Images)
But it says: "The numbers of specialist farmland birds are still very low when compared with the numbers in 1970. For every 100 pairs of birds nesting on agricultural land in 1970 there are only 58 today.

"The overall populations of the UK's specialist woodland birds are also in decline."

The report says 13 of the UK's most threatened birds, including the starling, yellowhammer, willow tit and turtle dove, are continuing to decline.

Two, the red-backed shrike and the wryneck, it describes as "virtually extinct" as British breeding birds.




WATCH AND LISTEN
The BBC's Peter Lane
"There are 40 species already on a warning list"



SEE ALSO:
Welsh osprey makes history
20 Aug 04  |  Wales
UK wildlife 'heading into crisis'
18 Mar 04  |  Science/Nature
Better news for UK breeding birds
03 Sep 03  |  Science/Nature
UK's farmland birds still declining
11 Aug 03  |  Science/Nature


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