BAD weather may have led to a drop in the number of wading birds in the south, say experts.
Figures from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) show the lowest numbers since the study started in the early 1990s.
Waders breed on wet grassland in the south east, where they nest on the ground and rely on earthworms and other invertebrates for food.
During monitoring in spring last year volunteer birdwatchers recorded particularly low numbers of lapwing, oystercatcher, snipe and curlew. Lapwings in particular have shown a greater decline in the south east than in any other English region.
Previous declines have been blamed on habitat loss, land drainage and potential increases in predation pressure.
But the sharp declines between 2010 and 2011 – 19 per cent for oystercatcher, 18 per cent for lapwing, 40 per cent for snipe and 13 per cent for curlew – may have been due to unfavourable weather conditions during the year which exacerbated the long-term declines.
Samantha Stokes, of the RSPB in the south east, said: ‘The spring of 2012 has seen the wettest April-to-June period on record, and it’s likely that populations of these ground-nesting waders would have also been hit hard this year. Flooding at several key sites has seen hundreds of wader nests washed out.’