Today's Coming Crisis Movie

Monday, May 2, 2011

Spring may lose song of cuckoos, nightingales and turtle doves: UK

Some of Britain's most cherished spring visitors are disappearing in their thousands. Ornithologists say species such as the cuckoo, nightingale and turtle dove are undergoing catastrophic drops in numbers, although experts are puzzled about the exact reasons for these declines.

The warning, from the RSPB, comes as the songs of the cuckoo, nightingale and wood warbler herald the return of spring. In the case of the cuckoo – "the simple bird that thinks two notes a song", according to the poet William Henry Davies – its call has become synonymous with the arrival of warm weather. It is the quintessential bird of spring.

Yet there is now a real risk that, with other migrant birds from Africa, it may no longer make its annual appearance in our woodlands, said Dr Danaƫ Sheehan, a senior RSPB conservation scientist. The call of the cuckoo could be silenced in the near future unless scientists can unravel the causes of the drastic decline in their population, she said.

According to Sheehan, numbers of migrant birds from Africa have declined dramatically in the UK since 1995. For turtle doves the figure is 71%; nightingales, 53%; and cuckoos, 44%. "That is a very significant and very worrying decline," she added.

"The real problem is that there are so many different possible causes for these losses – which makes it difficult to tease out the factors involved in their decline and to prepare plans to put things right.

"These losses could be the result of changes in farmland use in Britain which are affecting the way these birds breed when they arrive here in spring. Or they could be due to the spread of human populations in Africa and the destruction of natural habitats where they make their homes in winter.

"Climate change is almost certainly involved as well. Our problem is to unravel those different causes and assess how they interact." (read more)