Rare breeding birds in the UK in 2016

Published on 02 November 2018 in Latest issues

Mark Holling and the Rare Breeding Birds Panel

This is the 43rd report published by the Rare Breeding Birds Panel (RBBP), and includes details of 86 rare or scarce native taxa that bred, or showed signs of breeding, in the UK in 2016.

The 2015/16 winter was the third-warmest in the UK since 1910 – the warmest over that period for both England and Wales – and second-wettest since 1910. Spring was unremarkable compared with long-term averages but June was cloudy and wet, with some areas of East Anglia and southeast England having more than twice the normal rainfall.

There were two obvious highlights of the breeding year for rare birds. Since the formation of the Panel, in 1973, Little Gulls Hydrocoloeus minutus have been confirmed breeding in the UK only twice before. The two young that fledged from the RSPB reserve of Loch of Strathbeg in North-east Scotland in 2016 represent the first successful breeding. Also in northern Scotland, a pair of ‘Red-spotted Bluethroats’ Luscinia s. svecica bred and raised at least one young. This was the fourth confirmed breeding record of this form since 1973 but was in a particularly unusual location: an area of high-altitude, treeless arctic-alpine habitat.

Three species on the RBBP list were the subject of national surveys in 2016. A little over 1,100 individual Capercaillies Tetrao urogallus counted in a midwinter census was a small decrease since the last such count. There was also a decline in the number of Hen Harrier Circus cyaneus territories estimated by the 2016 survey. There was better news for Cirl Buntings Emberiza cirlus, with the highest reported total (1,079 pairs) in the RBBP era.

The RBBP species list can be downloaded at www.rbbp.org.uk/rbbp-species-list-full.htm; Woodlark Lullula arborea was reinstated to that list in 2016, following indications that its population may have fallen below our threshold of 2,000 breeding pairs, and Red-breasted Merganser Mergus serrator will be added from 2018.

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Adult and juvenile Bluethroats in the Cairngorms, August 2016. Robert Ince