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Red, amber and green explained

Bittern flying over reedbed

Red listed: the bittern is one of the rarest UK breeding birds

Image: John Bridges

The UK's birds can be split in to three categories of conservation importance - red, amber and green.

Red is the highest conservation priority, with species needing urgent action. Amber is the next most critical group, followed by green. 

Please refer to our PDF download for the full list of red and amber categorised species (see link). 

Birds in the red and amber lists will be subject to at least one of the relevant factors listed below. Again, a full list of criteria can be found in the PDF download (see link).

Red list criteria

  • Globally threatened
  • Historical population decline in UK during 1800–1995
  • Severe (at least 50%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or longer-term period (the entire period used for assessments since the first BoCC review, starting in 1969).
  • Severe (at least 50%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period

Amber list criteria

  • Species with unfavourable conservation status in Europe (SPEC = Species of European Conservation Concern)
  • Historical population decline during 1800–1995, but recovering; population size has more than doubled over last 25 years
  • Moderate (25-49%) decline in UK breeding population over last 25 years, or the longer-term period
  • Moderate (25-49%) contraction of UK breeding range over last 25 years, or the longer-term period
  • Moderate (25-49%) decline in UK non-breeding population over last 25 years, or the longer-term period
  • Rare breeder; 1–300 breeding pairs in UK
  • Rare non-breeders; less than 900 individuals
  • Localised; at least 50% of UK breeding or non-breeding population in 10 or fewer sites, but not applied to rare breeders or non-breeders
  • Internationally important; at least 20% of European breeding or non-breeding population in UK (NW European and East Atlantic Flyway populations used for non-breeding wildfowl and waders respectively)

Green list

  • Species that occur regularly in the UK but do not qualify under any or the above criteria

Introduced

This is not a conservation status category, but indicates a species that has escaped and bred in the wild or has been deliberately released into the wild at some point in the UK's history. As these species are not native to the UK, they have no specific conservation status here.

The story behind the red list

You've probably read about the latest birds to be added to the 'red list'. The cuckoo has joined other species like the house sparrow on the list of birds whose populations are in big trouble. But what does being on the list actually mean? And what are we doing to help the birds affected? More...

The story behind the red list