If you are interested in the conservation status of birds, you will doubtless have seen the red and amber lists mentioned. But what does it mean if a species has been placed on one of these lists?
The conservation status of British birds is designated by three categories - red, amber and green. The red list features the birds which are of most concern and require urgent action. The amber list includes species which are of concern but which have not yet become critically endangered and the green list features birds which are stable or prospering.
Leading conservation organisations including the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) have worked together to establish the criteria for inclusion on each list. The data used to assess the status of each species is gathered from a variety of sources. There are thousands of volunteers who count birds every year and send their findings to the RSPB, BTO and WWT.
Red list criteria
- Globally threatened
- A serious population decline in the UK between 1800 and 1995
- A decline of at least 50% in the UK breeding population over the last 25 years or over a longer-term period
- A contraction of at least 50% in the UK breeding range over the last 25 years or since 1969
Birds which appear on the red list include:
- Hen Harrier
- Song thrush
Amber list criteria
- A species of European conservation concern
- A serious decline in population between 1800-1995 but recovering; population size in the UK has more than doubled over last 25 years
- A decline of 25% to 49% in UK breeding population over last 25 years or since 1969 (when monitoring began)
- A contraction of 25% to 49% in UK breeding range over last 25 years, or over a longer term
- A decline of 25% to 49% in UK non-breeding population over last 25 years or over the longer term
- Species with only between 1 and 300 breeding pairs in UK
- Species with less than 900 non-breeding individuals in the UK
- Species with at least 50% of UK breeding or non-breeding population located at 10 or fewer sites
- A species of International importance of which at least 20% of the European breeding or non-breeding population is in UK
Species which appear on the amber list include:
- Mute Swan
- Tawny owl
- House Martin
The green list includes the species that occur regularly in the UK but do not qualify under any of the criteria for the red and amber lists.
If you want to explore the lists to see which birds are most threatened in the UK, there is a PDF which you are able to download from the RSPB website. The number of endangered species is extremely shocking and every year more birds are added to the red and amber lists. It is vital that we all do everything we can to turn this situation around and you can help by providing bird feeders and nesting boxes in your garden.