UK Crane population hits record high


Tuesday 02 February, 2021


Crane numbers have hit record levels after becoming extinct in the UK nearly 400 years ago. Thanks to the efforts of conservationists 64 pairs were present in 2020. Norfolk had 10 breeding pairs of crane in 2020, with eight pairs in the Broads. This is a great testament to the hard work of a great many people, including the UK Crane working group, of which NWT is a member.
 
These UK’s tallest bird, at 4ft, used to be quite common but a combination of hunting and wetland decline led to their extinction in the 1600s. In 1979, a small number of wild cranes returned to Norfolk and conservation groups have been working together to encourage more and more of these birds. They have now spread to other areas of the UK, benefitting from improved habitat such as at the RSPB’s Lakenheath and Nene Washes reserves as well as Natural England’s Humberhead Peatlands. Over half of all the cranes fledged in the UK since 1980 have fledged since 2015  -  so the last five years have been incredibly productive.
 
All the conservation effort on peatland restoration and wetland protection has yielded impressive results, with 64 pairs across the UK last year, producing 23 chicks. The total population is now believed to be over 200 birds - a new record.
 
Damon Bridge, Chair of the UK Crane Working Group said: “The return of cranes to the British landscape shows just how resilient nature can be when given the chance. If we want to see this success continue then these sites that cranes use and need must get adequate protection.”
 
Andrew Stanbury, RSPB Conservation Scientist said: “Thanks to the dedication of individuals, the UK Crane Working Group and conservation organisations, we are delighted to see crane numbers continuing to grow. If we want to see this amazing success repeated across the UK and more done to halt and reverse the decline of the UK's wildlife then we must have an Environment Bill that is fit for purpose and sets legally binding targets to revive our world over the next decade."

John Blackburn, NWT Reserve Manger for the Broads North said: “This is a result of the improvements and expansion of important wetland sites. Norfolk Wildlife Trust is proud that our Broadland reserves, are not only the cradle of our growing crane population, but still their favoured stronghold, and is testimony to NWT's commitment for almost 20 years in which crane have been breeding on our nature reserves."
 
2nd February marks World Wetlands Day, with the focus this year being on wetlands and water. Wetlands provide protection from floods and storms with each acre of wetland absorbing up to 1.5 million gallons of floodwater. These important places not only help regulate the climate - peatlands store twice as much carbon as forests, with saltmarshes, mangroves and seagrass beds also holding vast amounts of carbon – but also provide a home for thousands of species including cranes.
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