Ancient avocet returns home to RSPB Titchwell Marsh reserve – after 23 years

An avocet ringed at RSPB Titchwell in 1990 has returned to north Norfolk at the age of 23.

An avocet ringed at RSPB Titchwell in 1990 has returned to north Norfolk at the age of 23. - Credit: RSPB

An elderly avocet has returned home to its north Norfolk birthplace – 23 years after it was first recorded there.

The bird, which was ringed at Titchwell Marsh on the July 2, 1990, was spotted on the same RSPB reserve on Wednesday, making it one of the oldest avocets ever recorded in the UK, as the species has an average lifespan of just seven years.

It was originally one of three chicks which fledged from the nature reserve in 1990.

Subsequent sightings suggest an eventful life for the well-travelled bird, spending winters in Suffolk, Kent and Essex and even as far as the Exe Estuary in Devon, while returning to north-west Norfolk in the spring to breed.

Titchwell Marsh visitor officer Pernille Egeberg, said: 'It is great to see this old friend return to the reserve. We have always managed Titchwell Marsh with the avocet in mind and we know we're doing something right when the same birds come back again and again.'

When the RSPB first established the reserve in 1973, the population of the avocet, one of the UK's most striking wading birds, was extremely fragile.

The avocet became extinct as a breeding bird from the UK in 1893 and it was an important turnaround when the first breeding pair was reported again in 1941.

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Since then, the population has recovered well, with about 10pc of the UK's 877 breeding pairs nesting at Titchwell Marsh every year.

The long-lived bird is among 70 avocets currently on the reserve, many of which will be breeding on the freshwater marsh. In a good year there can be up to 80 pairs nesting on site.

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