Yellow peril as wagtail population in serious decline

A yellow wagtail.
A yellow wagtail.
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THEY may be sprightly and skittish, but one of the UK’s best-loved birds could soon become a seldom sight.

Three species of wagtail are suffering from long-term declines, according to the annual Breeding Bird Survey’s latest report.

Yellow wagtails have been worst-hit, with numbers reducing by more than two-fifths between 1995 and 2012, while grey wagtails, which live by rivers, have declined by almost a third in the past 20 years. The pied wagtail has seen declines of 11 per cent.

Reasons for the drop in numbers differ between each species. Experts say changes in agriculture and overseas problems are likely to have caused the decline in the migrant yellow wagtails.

Meanwhile, the grey and pied birds have shown rapid declines along rivers and canals. The Waterways Breeding Bird Survey found steeper reductions in river-based research than in the general survey, suggesting that issues in rivers are affecting species.

Sarah Harris, of the British Trust for Ornithology, said: “It’s fascinating three seemingly similar birds, lead such different lives and face such a variety of challenges.”