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Last Updated: Friday, 19 May 2006, 09:49 GMT 10:49 UK
Bird of prey back from the brink
Marsh Harrier
Only one pair of marsh harriers existed in the UK in 1971
A bird of prey is thriving throughout the UK, 35 years after it was on the brink of extinction.

A crackdown on toxic pesticides and persecution has helped boost numbers of marsh harriers to a 200-year high.

In 1971, just one pair remained at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds' Minsmere reserve in Suffolk.

By 2005, 360 breeding females were recorded in parts of eastern England, the Cambridgeshire Fens, Kent, Yorkshire, Lancashire and Scotland.

The birds are known for their spectacular aerial courtship display.

Wetlands drained

A survey by the RSPB and English Nature also shows that marsh harriers are leaving nature reserves and nesting in farmland outside protected sites.

Alan Drewitt, from English Nature, said: "What we need to do now is recreate new wetlands to further increase marsh harrier numbers and help other rare and threatened wetland species.

"The Great Fen Project in Cambridgeshire is a good example of this and will restore more than 3,000 hectares of farmland to fenland wildlife habitat."

Drainage of the Fens and other wetlands for farming from the 1700s onwards caused marsh harrier numbers to decline.

From 1900 to 1920, the bird was extinct in the UK.

The RSPB's Dr Mark Eaton said: "It was a tragedy and the marsh harrier was not the only bird to suffer.

"The peregrine falcon declined for the same reason, as did buzzards and sparrow hawks, but we are pleased that the illegal killing of birds of prey is now much reduced in the English lowlands."




SEE ALSO:
Harrier chicks to carry trackers
21 Jul 05 |  Norfolk
Farmers urged to help rare bird
08 Feb 06 |  Humber
Fish moved to encourage angling
07 Feb 06 |  Humber


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