Bitterns, curlews and lapwings at risk as vital wildlife funds dry up

Bird experts call on ministers to plug gap left by EU grants worth millions of pounds

They are some of the most elusive birds to nest in the UK. Indeed, they hide so well in their reedbed homes that ornithologists can only estimate bittern numbers by counting the sources of the booming sounds made by males in summer. It is a census that has produced alarming results. Only 11 booming bitterns were counted across the country in the 1990s.

But since then the bittern has begun to bounce back – thanks to a remarkable system of EU environment awards called Life grants. One of these, worth €3.9m (£3.5m), has helped ecologists restore the bittern’s reedbeds in South and West Yorkshire and rebuild bittern numbers.

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