A great breeding season for UK???s Avocets: record-breaking year at RSPB’s Read’s Island

Written by WildLife Extra

The bird that is the logo of the RSPB – and a symbol of bird conservation – has had a good breeding season, with record-breaking numbers at one UK reserve and the return after a 16-year break at another.

A failing breeding Pied Avocet colony on the Humber has enjoyed a dramatic reversal in fortunes with its most successful season ever, thanks to a major restoration project.

The RSPB estimates that at least 200 Pied Pied Avocet chicks have fledged this year on its reserve Read’s Island. Not only is this about 25 per cent higher than its previous best season, it is the first time any young have fledged on the site for three years. Situated near the south bank of the Humber, Read’s Island used to be one of the UK’s most important breeding sites for the Pied Avocet, but the river’s strong tide eroded the pools where the birds breed, causing the colony’s productivity to collapse.

A grant of almost £50,000 from SITA Trust enabled the RSPB to rebuild and protect 10 hectares of Read’s Island in the hope of securing a future for the Pied Avocet colony. Deep feeding pools were created, capable of holding water during the breeding season and islands were built for the birds to nest on. In addition, existing banks were repaired to help protect the Pied Avocet nests from high spring tides.

Prior to the restoration project, the number of breeding Pied Avocet pairs on Read’s Island had shrunk to a mere 50 pairs. This season there are in excess of 200.

Pete Short, the RSPB’s Humber Site Manager said: “The project has been a huge success and we are delighted that the island has regained its former glory as one of our most important Pied Avocet breeding colonies.’


PERFECT ENVIRONMENT: Pied Avocets have returned to Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk for the first time since 1994. © Gyorgy Szimuly

Conservation work has paid off
Meanwhile, Pied Avocets have bred for the first time in more than 15 years at Pensthorpe Nature Reserve in Norfolk. Partly as result of the work undertaken on the reserve’s wader scrape last winter, the habitat is perfect for the breeding Pied Avocets and this year the birds have returned to the reserve and bred successfully for the first time since 1994.


SYMBOL OF SUCCESS: Pied Avocets have enjoyed a fantastic breeding season. © Jan Wegener

‘The work on the scrape has really paid off this year, which has been the best yet for waders, including Wood, Green and Common Sandpiper, Ruff, Common Redshank, three pairs of Little Ringed Plover and Black-tailed Godwit, says Pensthorpe’s zoo and conservation manager Tony Durkin. ‘The adult pair and their fours eggs were watched by millions on this year’s Springwatch series and after successfully avoiding trouble from their wildlife neighbours, the chicks have fully-fledged from the scrape.’

There are many theories about why there has been a 16-year break from Pied Avocet breeding at Pensthorpe, but the Wensum Valley, which the reserve sits in, acts as a migration corridor for birds and over the past few years Pied Avocets have been seen regularly, only to disappear in mid May.

‘We are delighted that the Pied Avocets have finally bred at Pensthorpe after such a long absence and hope they will return next year,’ says Tony.


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