The five British species most likely to suffer from climate change

More common garden birds will also struggle to adapt to the rising heat, such as the song thrush and blackbird, which will find burrowing for worms in baked-hard soil much more difficult, especially as the worms go deeper underground to find cooler earth.

According to a BTO report last year, a quarter of the UK’s breeding species of birds appear to be negatively impacted by climate change, while a quarter may be responding positively. However, Pearce-Higgins stresses that new species arriving in the UK will only be able to thrive if suitable habitat is created for them. As well as ensuring the quality of wetlands, meadows and forests to provide a refuge for new visitors, he says, it is also vital to help our current native species to adapt.

One example is by re-wetting boggy moorlands which have been drained over the past century, to ensure they do not dry out during the summer and sustain healthy insect populations for birds to feed on.

Pearce-Higgins says studies around the threatened moorland bird the golden plover shows that, with sympathetic work to help preserve its upland habitat, the species can cope with as much as 2C warming. “There is a lot of evidence around the world that if you understand the species you are trying to help you can do something to make populations more resilient to the negative effects of climate change,” he says.

Tropical Britain, then, could be noisier, wilder and more exotic than we will have experienced for centuries – but without preserving the landscapes to accommodate our new guests, we will be staring out at a desert.


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