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Last Updated: Thursday, 22 September 2005, 07:01 GMT 08:01 UK
Rare bird species back from brink
stone curlew
Efforts by farmers and landowners have helped to save the bird

The fortunes of one of England's rarest birds have undergone a remarkable reversal according to conservationists.

The numbers of stone curlews had declined dramatically since the end of World War II largely because of modern farming techniques.

But an alliance of farmers and landowners has managed to save the bird from possible extinction.

The two main populations are around Salisbury Plain and in the Brecklands on the Norfolk-Suffolk border.

New target

Numbers had fallen to around 160 breeding pairs in 1985 but have now reached 103 pairs, mostly on Salisbury Plain and Porton Down, and 187 in the Brecks.

Smaller populations exist in north Norfolk and east Suffolk, taking the total to more than 300.

This is ahead of a government-backed biodiversity action plan, set in 1995, which included a population target of 300 pairs by 2010.

Robin Wynde, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds biodiversity policy officer, said: "There is no doubt that without conservation work the stone curlew may no longer have been a UK breeding bird by now.

"It has come back from the brink."

There is no doubt that without conservation work the stone curlew may no longer have been a UK breeding bird by now
Robin Wynde, RSPB

The stone curlew is about the length of a crow but slimmer and its most striking characteristics are its long yellow legs and powerful large yellow eyes.

Mr Wynde added that a new target will be adopted next year.

He said: "Now we want to help the bird recolonise some of its former sites which used to include parts of Cambridgeshire, the Chilterns and Sussex's South Downs."

Land order to save birds upheld
26 May 04 |  Norfolk

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