Skylarks could be lost from Richmond and Bushy Parks, The Royal Parks has warned.
Increased footfall during the latest lockdown could lead to the bird species disappearing if urgent action is not taken.
Skylark are small, streaked brown birds, larger than a sparrow but smaller than a starling.
They are ground-nesting birds, which breed around this time, from March to September.
Usually, The Royal Parks asks visitors to avoid harming skylark nests by keeping dogs on short leads on paths within breeding territories, which are marked by signs.
But a greater number of people attending parks for their daily exercise is putting the bird population at risk.
An urgent plea from us, @FRPTweets and patron @clarebalding – please keep dogs on leads and keep out of skylark nesting areas areas in #RichmondPark and #BushyPark. Find out more here https://t.co/qndNrHkfY4 and watch Clare on @bbclondonnews here: https://t.co/8IihvSK7vS pic.twitter.com/ryptJozHJf
— The Royal Parks (@theroyalparks) March 3, 2021
Nests are increasingly disturbed by walkers going off paths or letting their dogs roam in breeding areas without leads.
Simon Richards, Park Manager, Richmond Park, said:
“Richmond Park has been busier than we have ever seen it before – with recent visitor numbers greater than a ‘normal’ Spring Bank Holiday weekend.
“We welcome everyone to enjoy the natural environment, however increased footfall and disturbance to the environment can have a detrimental impact on wildlife.
“Skylark nest in the acid grassland of the park and their nests can be located in areas just off the paths.
“These birds are in decline nationally and the nests can be destroyed if trodden on by accident or disturbed by dogs. We conserve areas for skylark and count them.
“There were a total of only 18 pairs observed attempting to breed in the park in 2020 – and no skylark managed to establish territories in one of the previously populated areas of the park.
“Without urgent action, this species may be lost from the park for ever. This would result in the loss of one of the few remaining populations of skylark in London and we don’t want to add them to the list of wildlife that’s no longer here.”