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Almost 50% increase in Irish birds on endangered list following 'alarming' population declines

One in four birds is now on the so-called red list.

Image: Shutterstock/Harry Collins Photography

MORE THAN A quarter of native Irish bird species are now considered to be at the highest level of conservation concern, according to a new report from BirdWatch Ireland.

The review of Irish bird populations, which is published today, found that 54 out of 211 species are now on Ireland’s so-called ‘red list’ and at risk of permanent decline.

The red list increased by almost 50% since the last survey, with 23 new additions including the puffin, the sparrowhawk, the oystercatcher and the kittiwake.

Wading birds – those commonly found along shorelines such as lapwings and curlews – were reported to be experiencing the most severe population declines, while several seabirds also joined the list due to climate change and overfishing.

The decline of waders was described as “catastrophic”, with six such species joining the red list.

The kestrel was also added to the list, along with the common swift and the stock dove.

The report said that causes for the decline of kestrel in Ireland were not clear, but were possibly due to prey availability, agricultural changes, reduced feeding opportunities and the consumption of poison intended for rodents.

Other newly red-listed species included the red knot, the snowy owl, the redwing, the razorbill, the bar-tailed godwit, the knot, the willow warbler, and the brambling.

“There is no doubt that having 54 of Ireland’s regularly occurring bird species now on the red list is alarming, with some species having shown dramatic declines and losses on this island,” the report reads.

Only six species left the red list since the last survey was carried out in 2013.

Some recovery in the populations of species such as black-headed gull, the European herring gull, the tufted duck and the wigeon allowed them to move from red to amber status.

Others also moved from the amber to the green list, including the reed warbler, the mistle thrush, and the robin, all of which have improved status. 

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In total, 79 of the 211 species (37.4%) feature on the amber list, as well as 78 (37%) on the green list – the lowest cause for concern.

However, BirdWatch Ireland and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in Northern Ireland, which also conducted the review, called for more resources to be targeted at the protection of declining bird populations.

“With the continuing decline in the status of Irish birds… we acknowledge that finite conservation resources must be even further prioritised and directed where they will have the most impact,” the report says.

“It is difficult to reverse such sustained population declines and they tend to be followed by further declines or lack of recovery,” it added later.

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