Posted 24th Apr 2018 by Peter Byrne
The first hand-reared godwit has returned to the UK
The black-tailed godwit, named Delph after the river bank on which he was sighted, returned to The Fens in East Anglia where he had been hand-reared after migrating to Portugal for the winter months. The bird is one of the 26 black-tailed godwits that was raised at WWT Welney and was released into the wild last summer.
The sighting, made by Louise Clewley, provided some welcome news for conservationists at the RSPB and WWT, who formed the innovative partnership Project Godwit. This aimed to help black-tailed godwits, a species in severe decline, across the UK.
Commenting on the sighting was RSPB Project Godwit manager, Hannah Ward, who said: "We weren’t necessarily expecting any of the hand-reared birds to return this summer, so this is a wonderful and welcome surprise. We may have to wait until next summer before this young bird breeds, but this is a fantastic moment for the Project Godwit team and great news for this magnificent but threatened species."
Last spring, the eggs of the endangered birds were collected from the wild by RSPB and WWT staff and were then hatched and raised in captivity to increase the chances of them reaching maturity - this is known as head-starting.
It's a technique that has already proved to be a powerful measure in bird conservation, playing a role in Russia where it helped to stabilise numbers of the critically endangered spoon-billed sandpiper.
Now, experts are aiming to increase the small breeding populations of the black-tailed godwits at the two main breeding sites in the UK, the Ouse and Nene Washes.
Head-starting is only one aspect of Project Godwit - it also focuses on monitoring, habitat management and trialling conservation techniques.
Image courtesy of WWT