Move from research to conservation to save migrating birds

SCIENTISTS want efforts to shift from research to conservation in order to save migrating birds.

Species under threat include cuckoos, swifts, and turtle doves, as well as swallows and whinchats.

The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) warned that gaps in research into the problem shouldn’t delay conservation efforts.

Migrating birds that are born in Scotland and other parts of Europe and then winter in Africa have plunged by more than 25% since 1980.

Despite decades of research, the reasons for the fall remain unclear.

Now, the BTO and RSPB want conservation efforts to accelerate, suggesting that measures including tree planting and protection from hunting “are likely to have a positive impact”.

Professor Juliet Vickery, chief executive at the BTO, said: “Our declining migrant birds need action.

“Although it remains important to continue some diagnostic research, particularly tagging and tracking birds, resources need to be focused on trialling solutions based on what we know already.

“This is not just about the conservation of individual species but the preservation of a spectacular phenomenon that has inspired humans for generations.

“We must afford a higher priority to addressing the declines of widespread and relatively common birds, not least because these carry a stronger warning about the health of our natural world than is the case for of rare and threatened species.”

RSPB senior conservation scientist John Mallord added: “Although we have learnt a lot about migrant birds in the past seven years, we are still no closer to understanding what is driving the declines of most of these species.

“We need to shift the focus from species-specific diagnostic research and start to use what we do already know to inform conservation actions on the ground.”

Read more stories on Scottish Field’s wildlife pages.

Plus, don’t miss Andy Dobson’s article about rockpools in the March issue of Scottish Field magazine.