Range & Status
Palearctic; in Britain and Ireland it maintains a tenuous breeding foothold after initial colonisation of eastern England and north Scotland in early 1950s, some 50 pairs in 1991; winter numbers slowly increasing (15,860 in the late 90s) following decrease between mid 1960s and mid 1970s.
Cornwall: local winter visitor and passage migrant, with peak 1992 count of 275 from nine sites (compare with 700 in mid 1960s). The Cornish winter birds did not revive during the 1980s, as they did further east in England, following the national decrease from mid 1960s; however, there are signs of a slight improvement since 1993. The former stronghold of the Tamar holds less than 100 birds (500+ in 1966) and the Truro River has become Cornwall' s best site in recent years (86 in 1992); none of these sites rank as Nationally Important. Isles of Scilly: small numbers on passage.
Habitat & Ecology
Feeds in small flocks over relatively sheltered tidal flats, in the middle to upper reaches of estuaries. Cornish birds are of the Icelandic subspecies islandica , but at least some passage birds are of the nominate Continental form.
Vulnerable to disturbance of mudflats - this was shown well by complete desertion of St. John' s Lake during 1970s, coinciding with the popularity of feeding areas with bait-diggers, and the recent absence at nearby Millbrook for two winters followed the disruption of the mud by pipe-laying machinery. The planned development at the current main site of Truro River is worrying.
The main estuary sites, except Millbrook, are SSSI. Protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and Annexe 11/2 of the European Union Conservation of Wild Birds Directive. Listed (long list) as a globally threatened/declining species (BSGR, 1995).