Turtle dove perches in lush green leaves

Our successes: species

Not all wildlife conservation is a tale of extinctions – here are some of our key success stories.

We’ve done it!

White-tailed eagles are the largest UK bird of prey and became in the UK in 1918, due to human persecution. A reintroduction programme was started in 1975, and we now have a growing population from descendants of these reintroduced birds. For the first time in 145 years, a pair of white-tailed eagles nested successfully on Hoy in Orkney, Scotland, and fledged two chicks – a new and exciting expansion to their breeding range in Scotland.

The Shiant Islands, five miles east of Harris in the Hebrides, were declared rat-free following a four-year eradication project. After the third rat-free summer, a storm petrel chick was heard calling on the Shiants – the island’s first known breeding of these seabirds here.

Little terns are our smallest tern, weighing no more than a tennis ball. Unfortunately, they’ve suffered long-term declines, and are now on the Amber List of conservation concern. An EU-Life little tern recovery project, taking place between 2013 and 2019 has successfully laid the foundations to recovering this species. Involving nine organisations over 21 sites, early results are positive, showing that the project has slowed the declines of little terns.

White tailed sea eagle

Creating a bright future for turtle doves

As a part of the Operation Turtle Dove partnership, we’re working to improve the fortunes of turtle doves, whose numbers have fallen by 94% since 1995 in the UK.

A major cause of the UK population decline is a shortage of seed food during the breeding season. We’re working to ensure turtle doves have access to the right seeds close to nesting habitat and accessible drinking water.

Our research has shown that supplementary feeding can be safe and effective, if carried out according to a protocol, and can be used as a first-step emergency measure.

We have also been involved in research on turtle dove hunting in Europe, which has revealed that current levels are unsustainable. In addition, research by a PhD student shows that a reduction in the daily hunting bag limit is unlikely to result in a significant decrease in the number of turtle doves killed in several parts of Spain.

These findings have been used by our Spanish research partner to recommend that a reduction in hunting days is the only effective way of reducing pressure on turtle doves.

By working together, we’re hoping to improve the fortunes of turtle doves all along the flyway.

Turtle dove (Streptopelia turtur)

Partnership working for curlews across the UK

The UK is the third most important country in the world for breeding curlews, hosting up to 27% of the global population. Since the mid-1990s, their UK population has dropped by 48%.

The declines are attributed to low nesting success, and a reduction in good quality habitat.

We launched a five-year programme to improve the prospects of curlews in 2015. The aim is to understand the land management practices that are needed, and to ensure we’re doing all we can for curlews.

A main component is the curlew trial management project. This involves six landscape-scale sites in four countries, testing what levels of habitat management and predator control are required to stabilise the breeding population.

On each site, two 10 square km areas have been identified. On one, is we’re testing habitat management and predator control. The other is a control area where we are not undergoing any management, to assess whether our actions are making a difference.

Our future focus is on 11 priority landscapes and 25 key reserves, ensuring the right land management policies are in place, and developing strong partnerships. Working together, we can make a difference to ensure that future generations continue to hear the beautiful cries of the curlew.

Curlew on grass