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Ducks take a dive as milder winters keep birds in an unfrozen north - British Trust for Ornithology (BTO)

Fewer ducks, geese, swans and wader species are travelling to the UK as milder conditions continue to define northern European winters.

(image: Sarah Kelman)
(image: Sarah Kelman)

The UK is host to internationally important numbers of wintering waterbirds, and the long-standing Wetland Bird Survey (WeBS) and Goose and Swan Monitoring Programme (GSMP) provide essential data that inform decision makers when considering conservation measures for these birds.

With data provided by over 3,800 dedicated volunteers across the UK, the surveys deliver an annual assessment of ducks, geese, swans, waders and other waterbirds residing on, or passing through, our coasts, estuaries, lakes, reservoirs and rivers.

Published today, the 2022/23 WeBS report reveals yet more changes in the fortunes of many of our wildfowl and waders. As winters continue to become milder and damper across much of northern Europe, many species are altering their behaviours in response.

Historically, harsh conditions in northern and eastern Europe would see huge numbers of birds migrating to the relatively mild conditions of a British winter but now, as previously frozen landscapes become increasingly accessible, significant numbers of birds are staying closer to their breeding grounds, in a phenomenon known as short-stopping.

Those that do still make the journey across the North Sea to spend the winter in the UK are often arriving later and leaving earlier, therefore staying with us for much shorter periods. This has become increasingly noticeable in such species as Bewick’s Swan, which has declined by 96% in the last 25 years, while Goldeneye numbers have halved and Dunlin have dropped by a third.

Read the full the 2022/23 WeBS report >


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Posted On: 25/04/2024

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