Protection keeps Britain’s loudest birds chirping for another year in Fenland

PUBLISHED: 11:05 16 November 2017 | UPDATED: 11:12 16 November 2017

The once extinct, ‘Britain’s loudest bird’ - Bittern. PHOTO: Ben Andrew

The once extinct, ‘Britain’s loudest bird’ - Bittern. PHOTO: Ben Andrew


The once extinct ‘Britain’s loudest bird’ has had its best year in the Fens since records began according to a survey.

The once extinct, ‘Britain’s loudest bird’ - Bittern. PHOTO: Andy HayThe once extinct, ‘Britain’s loudest bird’ - Bittern. PHOTO: Andy Hay

The bittern, a form of heron, is still ‘booming’ in East Anglia following intensive conservation efforts from the RSPB.

An RSPB spokesman said: “Bitterns are highly secretive wetland birds and live most of their time within dense stands of reed, making them very difficult to survey.

“However, scientists count bitterns by listening for the male’s foghorn-like booming call, which can reach more than 100 Decibels in volume.

“This year’s bittern numbers increased to at least 164, recorded at 71 sites. That compares to 162 at 78 sites in 2016, and is a positive sign that bitterns are back from the brink and thriving.”

Booming male bitterns in the UK graph.Booming male bitterns in the UK graph.

Simon Wotton, senior conservation scientist said: “In the late 1990s, the bittern was heading towards extinction once again in the UK. But, thanks to conservation efforts to restore and create its preferred habitat of wet reedbed, the bittern was saved and we’re delighted to see another record year for this amazing bird.

“The decrease in bittern numbers in some of their traditional breeding sites highlights the vulnerability of these habitats and the importance of creating new reedbeds in areas safe from coastal flooding.”

This year, RSPB Lakenheath Fen, close to the border of Suffolk with Cambridgeshire and Norfolk, had a record eight male bitterns booming on the reserve.

Lakenheath’s freshwater reedbed habitat has been specially created to safeguard bitterns against the future loss of coastal reedbeds to increasingly frequent storm surges and rising sea levels as a result of climate change.

The once extinct, ‘Britain’s loudest bird’ - Bittern. PHOTO: John BridgesThe once extinct, ‘Britain’s loudest bird’ - Bittern. PHOTO: John Bridges

A spokesman said: “A combination of legal protection, combined with funding through two EU LIFE projects have been vital in aiding the recovery of bittern. It is important that the levels of protection afforded to species such as bittern are maintained or ideally enhanced following our exit from the EU.

“Almost half of Britain’s breeding bittern population occur within Special Protection Areas, however more than half of our still vulnerable population occurs at sites which to date have no protection including many of those sites created through conservation projects.

“To ensure the Britain’s bittern population continues to recover, there is a need to continue the progress made to complete a robust and well managed network of protected sites.”

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