Spot the woodpecker

The lesser-spotted woodpecker and the willow tit are the latest birds to attract the attention of the Rare Breeding Birds Panel, which will now be collating records on them in an attempt halt their decline. The lesser-spotted woodpecker, smallest of the woodpeckers and a quieter tapper, has declined by 76% between 1970 and 2008 and the willow tit by a horrifying 91%.

The panel, which was formed in 1972 to provide information to government agencies and conservation groups, is also looking, for the first time, at the long-eared owl, short-eared owl and Arctic skua, bringing their list to 103. The RSPB’s conservation director, Martin Harper, comments: ‘When Britain was carpeted with forest, the lesser-spotted woodpecker could have been among our most widespread birds. Perhaps its best hope for survival lies in the larger tracts of ancient woodland. Knowing the distribution of the species will give the best chance of hanging onto this endearing bird.’