Many of our ground nesting birds have been brought to the brink of local extinction, including nightjar, woodlark and lapwing. The main threat to these rare species is from disturbance, be that unwitting walkers or determined dogs straying off the path.
Ground nesting birds have some of the most superb camouflage in the animal kingdom, with eggs perfectly disguised to blend with the ground and vegetation. Chicks too are well adapted to their perilous life, with mottled fluffy plumage that helps them merge with the nest. But people wandering cross-country and dogs off the lead provide new threats that the birds are not adapted to, leading to the striking population declines of the past decades.
Dogs in particular are a key cause of nest failure in ground nesting birds. Once an off-lead dog disturbs an adult bird they will ‘flush’ or fly up from the nest. This leaves the eggs or chicks without protection from the elements or any predators in the area. If there are chicks present, then disturbance also prevents parent birds from feeding them sadly leading to starvation.
Helping ground nesting birds is simple:
- Be aware of signage in our nature reserves, alerting you to the presence of ground nesting birds.
- Stick to the paths on all our nature reserves. This is particularly important in forests, heathlands and coastal areas
- Keep your dog on the lead – look out for signage telling you when to use the lead and keep dogs under close control.
- Bag and bin dog poo. Poo can affect wildlife and alter the habitats of ground nesting birds so dispose of it properly.
The Trust’s nature reserves are havens for wildlife, supporting some of the few populations of these species that remain in our two counties. Please follow these guidelines in all nature reserves but be especially careful in the following areas which contain breeding ground nesting birds.