Jersey’s threatened birds
Jersey’s threatened birds
In 2011, Jersey produced the first red list of bird species for any of the Channel Islands*. A red list is an internationally recognised document aimed at highlighting those species most threatened with local or global extinction. Detailed analysis of each bird species’ distribution, population numbers and threats by local experts allowed us to categorise birds as Red (threatened with local extinction as a breeding species or non-breeding visitor), Amber (species undergoing moderate but long-term decline) and Green (populations secure). Of many things that were considered with each bird species, it’s global status as reviewed by IUCN and BirdLife International and level of threat were looked at first.
It may be a surprise that Jersey hosts globally endangered birds at all, but we are an important site for several species. Our rarest bird is the Balearic shearwater, a Mediterranean seabird that moves into the Atlantic after breeding each year, to undertake its annual moult. Birds moulting their feathers typically need a secure food source, not wasting valuable energy foraging and these shearwaters follow shoals of small pelagic fish. As the climate changes and seas warm up, the fish shoals are moving north and most of the world’s population of Balearic shearwaters moult each year off north west France and around our islands. With an estimated world population of only around 20,000 birds, this shearwater is considered Critically Endangered, at high risk of extinction.
Jersey hosts a further 23 globally endangered species including some that breed here like the Dartford warbler, some that only spend the winter here the redwing and some that breed here and are joined by others from Europe in winter like the oystercatcher and lapwing. The best known of our globally threatened birds is probably the Atlantic puffin, the most common is the meadow pipit. There is a serious chance that puffins won’t survive much longer in Jersey but with adequate protection and habitat management we should be able to hold on to meadow pipits. In winter Jersey hosts redwings and bar-tailed godwits from further north and, while numbers have declined in recent years, exact levels of decline may be obscured by climate change as milder winters mean that some northern migrants don’t bother to fly so far south anymore.
Of great concern here is the curlew, a well-known shoreline and farmland visitor. With its distinctive call, the curlew is suffering widescale declines and is predicted to become extinct in the British Isles in the near future. There are, however, some imaginative projects aimed to support the curlew so, if these are at all successful, we may see this bird for years to come. The turtle dove, Europe’s fastest declining species no longer breeds in Jersey despite being quite common here not too long ago. Like the curlew, there are plans to support the UK’s turtle doves so the future might be brighter.
Other globally threatened species recorded in Jersey most or every year are velvet scoter, common eider, common pochard, Slavonian grebe, red kite, sooty shearwater, knot, curlew sandpiper, kittiwake, razorbill and aquatic warbler. If you see any of these bird species, please submit your records to the JBC and the Ornithology Section of the Société. For each bird population, the more that is known about numbers, migration routes and activities, the more complete the picture and the easier it is to make conservation plans.
*Conservation Status of Jersey’s Birds: Jersey’s bird populations in the 21st Century. Download from http://www.birdsontheedge.org/resources/reports/
H Glyn Young, Durrell Wildlife Conservation Trust, April 2021
Photo 1: Balearic Shearwater; https://birdguide.club/shearwaters-petrels/balearic-shearwater-puffinus-mauretanicus/
Photo 2:(Eurasian) curlew Numenius arquata, Chris Stamper.