Birds of conservation concern

Priorities for action
The changing fortunes of Britain’s birds are followed by several long-term surveillance programmes, co-funded by JNCC and organised by partner organisations such as the British Trust for Ornithology and the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust. The data from these schemes allow the population status of Britain’s birds to be regularly reviewed. JNCC was pleased to join with a large number of other statutory and non-government organisations to recently launch a third national assessment of Birds of Conservation Concern (BOCC).An international action plan is being developed for Greenland white-fronted geese (left), a race newly red-listed by BOCC 3 and rapidly declining throughout its international range © Rachel Stroud

BOCC 3 reviewed most recent data on population and trends against established criteria so as to assess conservation priorities, with lists presented against the familiar ‘traffic-light’ scheme of red, amber and green status. Of particular interest in the BOCC 3 review was the first assessment of sub-species or races. This served to highlight the poor status of some races for which the UK has particular international responsibility, such as Greenland white-fronted geese which appear on the red list of BOCC 3 and have also been recently assessed as Critically Endangered against global IUCN Red List criteria.


New data on seabirds at sea highlighted the importance of the seas off southern England for the globally threatened Balearic shearwater Puffinus mauretanicus (new to the BOCC red list), and significant numbers of these birds are now being seen in UK waters – a trend possibly linked to marine food shortages in seas further south.


Detailed analysis of the assessment reveals intriguing trends. Five of the 18 newly listed red-listed species (cuckoo, tree pipit, yellow wagtail, wood warbler and golden oriole) are long-distance Afro-Palearctic migrants, bringing the total of such migrants to 18. The declining status of these species is a cause for concern, and the underlying reasons – possibly on African wintering areas – remain poorly understood.


In contrast, the move of some species from red to amber lists gives some optimism. Woodlarks have benefited from improvements in the area and condition of lowland heathland and the management of forestry plantations, whilst increases of stone-curlews reflect major conservation efforts under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan to create and manage semi-natural grasslands as well as to provide suitable nesting plots within farmland.


BOCC 3 presents a wealth of new data and information on the changing status of Britain’s birds. It is now important to assess the implications of this assessment for conservation policy.


Further details are available at: for the BOCC 3 summary booklet, or  for the full review paper.


David Stroud

Senior Ornithologist

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866810