Hand-reared godwits from Norfolk “found safe and sound in Portugal”

UK Conservationists received some heart-warming news from Portugal this week.

Two hand-reared black-tailed godwits – a species under threat – have been sighted 1,200 miles from ‘home’ among a flock on the Tejo estuary near Lisbon.

The less-than-year-old wading birds were among 26 that a new conservation project had hatched and reared by hand before releasing under a process known as ‘headstarting’.

Explain reports, “after release, the birds joined flocks” but this is “the first time any of them have been sighted outside the UK”.

The extraordinary feat of migrating birds in covering huge distances is a constant delight to those who study them, but this particular journey has delighted “Project Godwit”, as the last time these birds were sighted, “one was in Essex and the other in Somerset”.

“It’s a huge relief to hear they have both made it to the same spot in Portugal safe and sound”, said project manager Hannah Ward.

Project Godwit birds have coloured leg rings so they can be identified.

These two were logged by Dutch ornithologists.

“Headstarting” is a process that involves taking eggs from nests and rearing them in safety until they are able to fly and fend for themselves. It is used to bolster wildlife populations that are “dangerously low”.

With black-tailed godwits categorized by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature as “nearly threatened”, in UK numbers are purportedly down to just 50 breeding pairs.

Project Godwit is a partnership between RSPB and WWT with major funding from the EU LIFE Nature Programme, The HSBC 50th Anniversary Fund, Natural England and the Heritage Lottery Fund through the Back from the Brink programme.

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