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Major decline in number of wading birds

Some of the most familiar wading birds flocking to UK estuaries in winter have seen major declines in the past decade, say conservationists.

The latest results from the Wetland Bird Survey show ringed plovers, redshanks, dunlin, curlew and oystercatchers, which are all among the eight most abundant winter wading bird species in the UK, have all seen populations drop significantly.

Ringed plovers have suffered declines of 39 per cent in 10 years, while redshank numbers have fallen 26 per cent and the dunlin has declined 23 per cent.

Curlew numbers are down 17 per cent and oystercatcher numbers 15 per cent in the 10 years to June 2012.

The most abundant waders found on UK estuaries in winter are dunlin, with an estimated 350,000 birds, oystercatcher, with about 320,000 individuals, and knot, with 320,000 birds. Knots have also seen numbers decline, by seven per cent in 10 years.

But there is good news for species that were relatively scarce a few decades ago, with avocet numbers rising 61 per cent in a decade and black-tailed godwits increasing 57 per cent.

Winter population declines in the UK may be due to fewer young waders being successfully bred and reared in the Arctic, which is experiencing rapid warming.

Richard Hearn, of the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, said: "The declines in waders and other wintering waterbirds in the UK demonstrate the unprecedented period of change these birds are undergoing, and highlight the need for a step change in monitoring and relevant conservation action if we are to avert continued biodiversity loss."

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