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Kestrel joins "birds at risk" league

[Thursday 23 November 2006]
Kestrel under threat
Photo: Tommy Holden/BTO

BRITAIN'S best-known bird of prey, the kestrel, which is often seen hovering over prospective prey alongside roads and even motorway verges, has been added to the list of birds at risk by scientists worried about a sudden drop in its breeding success.

The once-common hawk can regularly be seen hovering above the Yorkshire Dales landscape and reared four or even five chicks - but suddenly, that figure has dropped to an average of three and researchers at the British Trust for Ornithology don't know why.

The BTO runs an annual nesting census helped by 500 amateur bird-watchers and then draws up a "list of concern" for species which seem to be under threat. This year, the kestrel has been added to the list alongside once common favourites like the woodlark and the aerobatic spotted flycatcher.

This has particular saddened BTO experts because in recent years, the kestrel was thought to be staging a major comeback after suffering a dramatic drop in numbers over twenty years from the 1970s.

Dr David Leech, Research Ecologist at the BTO said "The latest trends indicate that kestrel brood sizes have declined, with more pairs now rearing three chicks instead of four or even five. This reduction in breeding success is particularly worrying in light of the recent population trends."

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