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Flying predators being blamed for fall in numbers of other birds.

THE UPLAND areas of Wales are being patrolled by an "all-time high" army of birds of prey which are picking off woodland birds to the point of extinction, a conservationist claimed today.

John Pugh, of Llandrindod Wells, Powys, who has been has been a hill farmer for 60 years and who worked as a warden for the National Trust for 16 years, blames the predators for the rapid decline of populations of songbirds and of the lesser spotted woodpecker and the willow tit since the 1970s.

Numbers of willow tits have fallen by 91% and the lesser spotted woodpecker, the smallest of the UK's woodpeckers, have dropped by more than three-quarters (76%), according to the RSPB.

Mr Pugh said: "In Wales, the amount of predators is at an all time high, with 600 red kites in the skies here and more being farmed out to other parts of Britain, plus hen harriers, goshawks and even a golden eagle that has been spotted in West Wales.

"They are pushing some of our most-loved birds into extinction."

The sighting of the golden eagle in Aberystwyth earlier this year was 400 years after the country's indigenous population of the rare bird died out.

The RSPB claims it is unclear exactly why numbers have fallen so significantly but its experts believe changes to woodland may be playing a role.

Mark Eaton from the RSPB said: "It is tragic to think that within many people's memories these woodland birds were so widespread and now they are so rare.

"Since the 1970s we've lost nine out of 10 pairs of willow tits and three out of four pairs of lesser spotted woodpecker, and in many areas these birds have disappeared completely."

A lack of suitable management which would allow new growth and provides dead and decaying timber may be having an effect, while willow tits may also be hit by wooded areas drying out.

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* Birds of prey, such as the red kite, are pushing some birds into extinction
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Sep 27, 2011
Words:334
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