Endangered U.K. Bird Coming Back from the Brink of Extinction

Now, for a bit of good species news: One of the rarest birds in Britain, the cirl bunting, has made an impressive comeback from the brink of extinction, thanks to a proactive government plan that pays farmers to maintain their fields in cirl bunting-friendly ways. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds launched the rescue program in 1989, when the number of breeding pairs of the birds plummeted to 118; now, thanks to that effort, the population has grown six-fold to nearly 700 pairs, according to a new survey. The protection plan hinged on farmers leaving stubble in unplowed fields over the winter to supply birds with seeds, as well as planting traditional hay crops to support populations of grasshoppers, which cirl buntings eat. This venture could provide a model for restoring populations of other bird species that have been hard hit by modern farming.