Puffins and turtle doves are now as endangered as the African Elephant and have been added to a list of animals most at risk of extinction.
The much loved British birds have seen numbers plummet in recent years because of harsh winters, and are now under greater threat than even creatures like the humpback whale.
Now for the first time they have been added to the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN) Red List bringing the number of endangered birds to eight.
A further 14 UK species are considered to be Near Threatened, meaning that any further deterioration in their status could see them added to the red list too.
“The announcement means that the global wave of extinction is now lapping at our shores,” said Martin Harper, the RSPB’s Conservation Director.
“The number of species facing extinction has always been highest in the tropics, particularly on small islands. But now the crisis is beginning to exact an increasingly heavy toll on temperate regions too, such as Europe.
“The erosion of the UK’s wildlife is staggering and this is reinforced when you talk about puffin and turtle dove now facing the same level of extinction threat as African elephant and lion, and being more endangered than the humpback whale.”
Turtle doves , a regular visitor to the English countryside and a fixture in literature and folklore for centuries, have plunged 96 per cent since 1970, making it the UK’s fastest declining migrant bird. There are fewer than 14,000 breeding pairs today compared with 125,000 three decades ago.
Scientists blame changes in farming practices both in the UK and in Africa where they spend the winter, and are also regularly shot by hunters in Europe and North Africa.
Harsh winters have made breeding difficult for seabird populations and the puffin has struggled more than most.
The number of puffins breeding has halved since the 1970s and there are only thought to be around 580,000 breeding pairs left in Britain.
Other UK birds that have been added to the near threatened list include oystercatchers, lapwings, know, curlew sandpiper and bar-tailed godwit – and join species already listed such as the black-tailed godwit and curlew.
Pochards have declined significantly in recent years across Europe, leading it to be listed as vulnerable. Experts said numbers of nesting pochards and overwintering ducks in the UK had declined markedly.
This article was first published by The Telegraph on 29 Oct 2015.