Endangered birds to be released into Norfolk countryside
- Credit: David Kjaer (rspb-images.com)
Dozens of birds that were once a common sight in the Norfolk countryside before a steep decline put them on the endangered list are set to be released into the wild near Diss.
Earsham Wetland Centre has reared 100 grey partridge as part of its conservation work and plans to release most of them at Dickleburgh Moor where they are creating a new nature reserve.
Both nationally and in Norfolk, grey partridge, also known as the 'English partridge', have undergone a massive decline and are a red-listed species.
In Edwardian times there were more than a million roaming the British countryside. By the early 1990s this had dropped to 145,000, and today estimates suggest that this figure has halved again.
Ben Potterton, trustee at Earsham Wetland Centre, which opened last year in the old River Waveney Study Centre building, on the site of the former Otter Trust, said this summer's dry weather had prompted them to rear grey partridge for their Dickleburgh site.
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He said: 'We have grey partridge that are starting to use the site and with the dry weather it looked to be a good year. We were conscious that some of the local nests were being eaten by magpie and in the dry weather the succulent eggs were more susceptible. So we wanted to try to rear some and get something going to boost the population.
'We have actually had much more success than we originally planned. We said we would rear 50 but actually we have about 100.'
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Many factors are thought to have contributed to the birds' decline including pesticides, the loss of suitable grassland for nesting and a rise in predators such as foxes, rats, magpies and crows.
Norfolk is home to about 10% of the remaining national grey partridge, thanks in part from conservation efforts by shooting estates.
Mr Potterton said: 'They are just a lovely traditional farmland bird that has been lost. It's not the farmers' fault but we have become better at growing food and some of these little birds haven't caught up with that.'
The chicks have been on view at Earsham Wetland Centre, where a few will remain. He added: 'We have had some interesting comments with people asking 'what if they get shot?' Well some will, some will also get hit by cars, some will be eaten by buzzards, but that is life. But even if just four survive that is good.'