For the first time in the UK, ‘headstarting’ has been used to hatch 26 black-tailed godwit chicks in an attempt to help the declining population, which could be at risk of global extinction in the near future, according to the IUCN.


32 eggs were collected from the wild in April and incubated at WWT Welney on the Ouse Washes, where the chicks will be hand-reared until they are strong enough to be released back into the wild.

Black-tailed godwit eggs at WWT Welney. © Bob Ellis/WWT

The project aims to increase the number of fledging black-tailed godwits from the species’ two main UK breeding grounds in the Fens – the Ouse Washes and the Nene Washes.

Fewer than 60 nesting pairs of black-tailed godwits remain in the UK, and the species is listed as Near Threatened on the IUCN Red List.

Black-tailed godwit chicks at WWT Welney. © Bob Ellis/WWT

“The future of the species in the UK, and globally, is currently very uncertain and it is ‘red-listed’ on the UK Birds of Conservation Concern,” said the RSPB’s Hannah Ward.

“Godwits nest on the ground so they’re susceptible to flooding in spring-time and vulnerable to predators.”

Project Godwit will run for five breeding seasons, and aims to boost numbers of the black-tailed godwit.

Black-tailed godwit adult and chicks in the wild. © Will Meinderts (FLPA)

The project is being funded by the EU LIFE Nature programme and will also include improving habitats, increasing understanding of migratory movements and enhancing support among local communities.


Main image: Black-tailed godwit chick in the wild. © Will Meinderts (FLPA)