Tuesday, 18 Jan 2022

Dartford Warbler sets new record as oldest bird of its kind in Britain

Rare Dartford Warbler found in Surrey sets a new record as the oldest bird of its kind ever recorded in Britain

  • Dartford warbler was first caught in a net, fitted with a leg ring and freed in 2016 
  • It was caught as an adult male at five years, one month and three days old – a new national record
  • Previous record set in 1986- bird was three years, eight months and one day old

A rare bird trapped and ringed in Surrey has been confirmed as the oldest of its kind ever recorded in Britain.

The Dartford warbler was first caught in a net, fitted with a leg ring and freed as a juvenile on 22 July 2016 at Crooksbury Common.

Then on 25 August this year, ornithologists were amazed to discover it was caught again in the same place. 

This time it was trapped as an adult male, making it five years, one month and three days old- a new national record.

The Dartford warbler was first caught in a net, fitted with a leg ring and freed as a juvenile on 22 July 2016. (File photo of a Dartford warbler in Arne, Dorset at a nature reserve)

Then on 25 August this year, ornithologists, who study birds, were amazed to discover it was caught again in the same place. This time it was caught as an adult male, making it five years, one month and three days old- a new national record for longevity. File photo of a Dartford warbler in the New Forest, Hampshire 

A previous record was set in 1986 when the oldest-known Dartford Warbler was three years, eight months and one day old. 

The birds are rare in the UK and are only found at a few heathland spots.

Their numbers drop rapidly in bad winters because they cannot find enough insects to eat so they starve or freeze to death.

Dartford warblers are among species protected by a nature reserve called Purbeck Heaths in Dorset, which opened last year.

The ‘super’ nature reserve, the first of its kind in the UK, spans an area the same size as Blackpool.

It was created by seven landowners who teamed up to protect wild species- the National Trust, Natural England, RSPB, Forestry England, Rempstone Estate, Dorset Wildlife Trust and Amphibian and Reptile Conservation. 

The extra land to roam in gives wildlife a better chance of adapting and thriving in light of the climate crisis.  

What is the Dartford Warbler? 

This small, dark, long-tailed warbler is resident in the UK and has suffered in the past from severe winters. 

The Dartford warbler’s population crashed to a few pairs in the 1960s, since when it has gradually recovered, increasing in both numbers and range.

It is still regarded as an Amber List species. It will perch on top of a gorse stem to sing, but is often seen as a small flying shape bobbing between bushes.

They eat insects and other invertebrates and measure 12-13 cm in length.

Dartford warblers have a wingspan of 13-18 cm and a weight of 9-12 g.

There are 3,200 pairs breeding annually. 

Their feather colours are black, blue, brown, grey pink/purple, red and  white.

They have brown and pink legs and short thin beaks and their natural habitats are heathland.  

Source: RSPB 

Dartford warblers are rare birds in the UK who live on heathlands 

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