Britain’s loudest fowl makes roaring restoration


Bitterns, Britain’s loudest fowl, have had one other record-breaking yr with 228 booming males counted in 2021, up from 209 in 2019, in line with new survey outcomes from the RSPB and Pure England (recording in 2020 was affected by the coronavirus pandemic). This member of the heron household went extinct throughout the UK within the 1870s because of a mix of over-hunting for meals and draining of their wetland properties for agriculture. Bitterns returned to Britain within the early twentieth century, and restoration of wetlands has allowed their numbers to greater than double in a decade, with over half on RSPB reserves.

Bitterns are well-camouflaged, shy birds that like to cover in reedbeds, so essentially the most dependable method to rely them within the breeding season is to pay attention for the male’s booming foghorn name which may be heard from three miles away. Numbers have been very low when the primary annual surveys started in 1990 and in 1997 there have been solely 11 males throughout the entire UK, leaving them on the sting of a second nationwide extinction.

A key a part of bringing bittern numbers again up was restoring, recreating, and defending their wetland habitats. Many wetlands have been drained within the nineteenth and twentieth centuries to create space for agriculture, leaving the bittern fewer and fewer locations to breed. Rewetting these areas additionally helps stop flooding and fights the local weather disaster – wetlands are unbelievable carbon sponges, with coastal wetlands locking in additional carbon that forests.

Bittern, copyright Glyn Sellors, from the surfbirds galleries

Simon Wotton, RSPB Senior Conservation Scientist, mentioned: “The bittern’s restoration exhibits how rapidly nature can bounce again when given the prospect – and all of us profit from creating wholesome areas for wildlife. Individuals get such pleasure from listening to the bittern’s mighty foghorn-like tune, and their wetland residence additionally protects folks from flooding and helps to take in carbon. It’s a win-win for wildlife and folks, and we hope that at some point the increase of the bittern shall be heard across the UK as soon as extra.

“I need to say an enormous thanks to all of the volunteers, conservation website workers, and landowners who monitored websites in 2020 and 2021 throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. With out them and everybody who uploaded their recordings to on-line sources we’d have misplaced invaluable details about these endangered and luxurious birds.”

Though bitterns are nonetheless a uncommon fowl, there are some nice locations to expertise them first-hand together with these RSPB reserves:

  • Ouse Fen, Cambridgeshire
  • Ham Wall, Somerset Avalon Marshes
  • Lakenheath Fen, Suffolk
  • Minsmere, Suffolk
  • Leighton Moss, Lancashire
  • St Aidan’s, West Yorkshire
  • Cors Ddyga, Anglesey, Wales

Ouse Fen, Ham Wall, and Lakenheath Fen have been all created throughout the mid-1990’s to assist increase bittern populations as a part of one of many Bittern EU LIFE initiatives.


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