One of the UK’s rarest and most threatened bird species continues to thrive at Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve

Bittern At Newport Wetland Nature Reserve image credit : Darryl Spittle

After previously being driven to the point of extinction, one of the UK’s rarest and most threatened bird species has successfully bred for the fourth successive year on the Gwent Levels in south Wales

Thanks to years of conservation work carried out by officers and volunteers from Natural Resources Wales (NRW) bitterns are continuing to thrive at the Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve, and six bittern chicks have fledged from at least two separate nests this summer.

Before 2020, bitterns had previously not bred on the Gwent Levels for over 200 years.

The wetlands are managed by NRW in partnership with RSPB Cymru and Newport City Council.

Bitterns are a type of heron which live exclusively in reedbeds. The species was once thought to be extinct in the UK following years of persecution and a dramatic loss of habitat, but populations have since returned to areas where high quality reedbed habitat still exists. 

A number of improvements to the wetlands over the years, including careful management of the reedbeds and introducing important food sources such as small fish like Rudd and Elvers,  have helped to create a good habitat for bitterns to thrive.

The reedbeds at the wetlands have also provided a valuable habitat for marsh harriers and bearded tits who has also bred at the reserve this year.

The original pair of marsh harriers fledged 12 chicks between 2016 and 2022.The female is now at least 10 years old and hasn’t bred this year, but a new, younger pair have fledged 3 chicks.

Kevin Dupe, Land Management Officer for Natural Resources Wales said: 

It’s truly amazing to see the bittern chicks thriving at the wetlands, and a real achievement for those of us who have been involved in habitat conservation at the site for a long time. Seeing them thrive for the fourth year in a row,  is a real testament to the conservation effort made by the team, including our many volunteers.
Newport Wetlands are part of the Gwent Levels and are made up of a diverse range of low-lying habitats which provides an important home for wildlife as well as being a valuable green space for the surrounding communities and visitors to enjoy.
Wetlands are an important habitat in need of our help. As well as allowing species like the bittern to come back from the brink, they can also help us in the battle against climate change by storing harmful carbon and holding back flood water.

Chris Harris, Programme Manager for the Living Levels Landscape Partnership said:

It’s extremely heartening to see the reappearance of both breeding bitterns and marsh harriers on the Levels after such a long absence. That these iconic wetland species have been able to recolonise Newport Wetlands is a testament to the hard work of NRW, conservation groups and volunteers. It also shows the remarkable ability of nature to recover, given the opportunity, and should serve as an inspiration for everyone working to protect and enhance the Gwent Levels.

To plan your visit to the Newport Wetlands, visit : Natural Resources Wales / Newport Wetlands National Nature Reserve


Image credit : Darryl Spittle