One of Britain?s most celebrated birds, the nightingale, is facing extinction as its range continues to contract towards the extreme south-east of England, according to new research by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO).

The organisation says it is unclear exactly what is to blame for the dramatic fall in the bird?s numbers, but says that one reason could be the explosion in the population of muntjac deer, which has drastically reduced the availability of the bird?s favoured habitat.

A BTO spokesman said: ?Deer browsing in woodland is certainly a component we have looked at, and is one of several factors that is contributing to loss of habitat and therefore the bird?s decline.

?The population of muntjac has increased hugely in the south-east of the UK, so it has probably had more impact than any other deer species. There is no doubt there is a causal link there, but to what extent is very difficult to measure.?

As well as pressures on the nightingale?s breeding territories in this country, the BTO believes more must be learned about the bird?s migration to and from Africa, and about its wintering area south of the Sahara Desert.

The rest of this article appears in 8th June issue of Shooting Times.

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