Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Vanishing Whinchat

Preliminary 'Bird Atlas 2007-11' data has revealed that Whinchat, previously scattered across the whole of the country 20 years ago, is virtually all but gone from anywhere south of the Pennines. Small colonies do exist on Salisbury Plain, Exmoor and Dartmoor, but the bird has vanished from previous strongholds in Norfolk and Hampshire.
Breeding habitat has not thought to have changed to explain this loss and, given that the numbers of Stonechat - which share similar habitats but do not migrate - have increased three fold in recent years this is probably correct.
Loss on migration, or in wintering areas, is considered to be the most likely candidate - particuarly as other sub-Saharan migrants (turtle dove, wood warbler, pied flycatcher, nightingale and cuckoo) are also showing declines. The results of the BTO and RSPB's Out of Africa data is much needed. See: http://migrantbirdsinafrica.blogspot.com/ for how this work is progressing.

Picture taken from Telegraph newspaper /Alamy

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