The extremely invasive red-billed leiothrix could pose a threat to Britain’s native bird populations

The extremely invasive red-billed leiothrix could pose a threat to Britain’s native bird populations

A new report warns that a brightly colored subtropical songbird from Asia might colonize Britain’s gardens and forever alter the dawn chorus.

According to researchers, the extremely invasive red-billed leiothrix could pose a threat to native bird populations, particularly garden species like the robin and blackbird. Early indications suggest that this small bird, which is olive green with a vivid red beak and yellow throat, is already establishing itself in southern gardens and woodlands.

According to a new research published in the journal Ibis, the biggest cluster of sightings is in Wiltshire and Somerset, with a few claims from further afield in south Wales, Merseyside, and Kent. These populations, sometimes known as pekin robins in the caged bird trade, are believed to have escaped captivity, but it is unknown if they are breeding.

The European distribution of the red-billed leiothrix has doubled in the last two decades, with populations now established in Italy, Spain, Portugal, and France. Southern Britain’s environment is becoming increasingly favorable to them as the climate catastrophe worsens. “This might be the next ring-necked parakeet – it’ll be a shift people notice,” said lead author Richard Broughton of the UK Centre for Ecology and Hydrology.

According to the article, there were 16 occurrences of wild red-billed leiothrixes in southern Britain between 2019 and 2022, with 10 of them coming from the cluster. Researchers used social media and Google imagery to find records. “There will be many more that we haven’t heard about,” Broughton predicted, “perhaps because people haven’t reported them or they haven’t noticed them.” As a result, this is most certainly an underestimation. It’s concerning that this cluster of documents was discovered solely through social media.”

Lead Image: Early signs suggest the red-billed leiothrix, native to south-east Asia, may be establishing itself in southern parts of the UK. Photograph: Mei Yongcun/Xinhua/Alamy.

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