FESTIVE bird the turtle dove is now extinct in East Lancashire.

The dainty bird, which is slightly larger than a blackbird, has not been seen in Lancashire since 2009 and a survey of breeding and wintering birds has found that there are now none living in the region.

The Lancashire Wildlife Trust put their disappearance down to changing agricultural practices.

Steve White, editor of The State of Lancashire’s Birds, said: “This has become the first species to have become extinct as a breeding bird in the region since corncrakes finally disappeared in the latter half of the 20th century.”

Turtle doves, which could be found all over East Lancashire, are chestnut and black and have a black tail.

They eat seed grain from weeds which are in decline as farmers are using the land for crops and grazing.

Mr White said: “This survey has provided a unique snapshot of the state of the birds of Lancashire and North Merseyside at the start of the 21st century.

“The picture it paints is mixed.

“Many species that breed here are declining and some are disappearing, but an equal number are increasing in numbers and spreading more widely.

“Our region is amongst the most important in the UK for birds that nest in the Arctic but move south to enjoy the relatively mild winters of North-west England.

“Huge numbers of wild swans, geese, ducks and wading birds spend the winter months on our coasts and wetlands, providing a magnificent wildlife spectacle.”

The report also warned that seven other birds - ruddy duck, hen harrier, bittern, black-tailed godwit, lesser spotted woodpecker, hawfinch and twite - appeared to be on the brink of extinction.

However, the Cetti’s warbler and avocet have colonised the county over the past decade, with spoonbill and nightjar being recorded but not yet breeding.

A spokesman for the Lancashire Wildlife Trust said the organisation had high hopes that nightjar would return to the mosslands of Manchester and Lancashire as it worked to improve habitat.

The bird atlas can be downloaded from www.lacfs.org.uk