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Power lines, wind turbines and intensive farming have all played a part in a “dramatic fall” in the number of Bewick swans coming to the UK.
The swans are the smallest and rarest type seen in the UK and their numbers have plunged by a third since 1995 – according to the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust – from 29,000 down to 18,000.
The birds arrive in significant numbers at the trust’s reserve in Welney every winter on their annual 3,700 mile migration from Russia but officials fear that, when the next count is carried out in January, it will show a further decline from its 2010 level.
Emma Brand from the Wildfowl and Wetland Trust, Welney, said: “It’s quite a dramatic fall in out Bewick swans.
“We do an international swan count across the whole of their fly range, so that’s not only over the UK but also over Europe and Russia, every five years and we have found that a third of Bewick swans have disappeared since 1995.
“When we counted in 2010, they had dropped from about 29,000 to 18,000 and our next count is due in January and we are a bit worried about what we might find out at that time.”
Ms Brand said there were a number of factors affecting bird numbers across their migratory path, including hunting, power lines and wind turbines and said that the birds picking up lead shot was also a problem in the UK.
She said: “People are not necessarily shooting them but obviously when they are picking up grit to grind up their food they are picking up lead shot which can have devastating consequences for these birds.
“Structures that these birds might not be able to see if it is foggy or if they are flying too or from their roost site between there and their feeding grounds at dawn and dusk. We are trying to look into these threats and come up with a solution to them as well.
“We need people to help us to raise funds so we can continue to protect species like the Bewick swan.”
A five-point action plan has been devised to help protect the swan in the future but the trust needs to raise £70,000 in order to see it completed.
Visit www.wwt.org.uk to find out more.
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