May 28, 2009 / 9:43 AM / 8 years ago

Cuckoo becomes one of UK's most threatened birds

3 Min Read

LONDON (Reuters Life!) - The cuckoo, traditional harbinger of Spring, has become one of Britain's most threatened birds, joining a "red list" of the 52 most vulnerable species.

Numbers of the bird famous for laying its eggs in others' nests are down almost 40 percent in 15 years.

Others on the danger list, which now accounts for 21 percent of all Britain's bird species, include the lapwing, yellow wagtail, the house sparrow and the starling.

The 2009 list was published on Thursday by the RSPB charity on behalf of a range of conservation bodies like the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the British Trust for Ornithology. The last survey was compiled in 2002.

The RSPB said the continued decline of widespread farmland and woodland birds is a theme which has developed since then.

Lapwing, a formerly widespread wading bird, and the hawfinch, a woodland bird largely confined to England, have both joined the red list in the latest assessment.

"An increasing number of charismatic, widespread and familiar birds are joining the list of those species most in need of help; this is scandalous," said Mark Avery, the RSPB's Conservation Director.

"When the RSPB was formed 120 years ago, few would have been concerned about the cuckoo, lapwing, starling or house sparrow.

"Now these birds are some of our greatest conservation priorities. Most shocking is the more recently observed and drastic decline of summer-visiting birds, typified by the cuckoo."

Other visitors at risk include the wood warbler, and tree pipit.

Their addition to the red list is highlighting the concern that many long-distance migratory birds nesting in Europe and wintering in Africa are increasingly in trouble, the RSPB said.

Three species of seabird join the list for the first time.

The Balearic shearwater -- a smaller relative of the albatross -- visits Britain from its Mediterranean breeding grounds regularly each autumn.

This seabird, which the RSPB said is thought to face a higher risk of global extinction even than the giant panda, is the rarest bird to regularly occur in the UK.

Highlighting concerns about the fortunes of seabirds around the northern coasts of the British Isles, the Arctic skua has joined the red list, as has the familiar herring gull.

However, six species: the stone-curlew, woodlark, quail, Scottish crossbill, bullfinch and reed bunting, have been removed from the 2002 red list, largely because of a recovery in their numbers or range, or a better understanding of their populations.

Reporting by Stephen Addison: Editing by Michael Holden

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