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You are in: Manchester > Nature > Nature features > Giving the redstart a headstart

BDP staff on the 'living roof' in Manchester

On the 'living roof' in Manchester

Giving the redstart a headstart

One of the UK's rarest birds is being given a helping hand in Manchester. Architecture firm BDP has created a 'living roof' at its new headquarters with the hope of bringing back the elusive black redstart.

When BDP began designing its new office in Piccadilly Basin, its specialist Sustainability team was set the challenge of improving the ecological value of the new building.

A black redstart (c)

A black redstart (c)

Working closely with experts from The Greater Manchester Biodiversity Project and the urban regeneration group Living Roofs, they set out making the limited flat roof area into the preferred urban habit for the black redstart.

The roof uses recycled rubble and gravel taken from the building's own construction site which has been seeded with the redstarts' favoured vegetation. 


The black redstart is an elusive city dweller that somewhat strangely favours urban wastelands to live and breed.

In fact, the bird is said to have thrived after World War II with the huge numbers of bomb sites but its numbers have fallen with increasing redevelopment in the UK and is now one of the nation's rarest bird species.

The UK's entire breeding population of black redstarts is now put at at between just 80 - 100 pairs.

In Manchester, records state that between 1992-1997 they attempted to breed in the city and more recently they were reported to have bred in 2005 and 2006. It's thought that two or three pairs could still reside in the city - but despite efforts to track them down, they are hardly ever spotted.


In helping encourage Manchester's redstarts, BDP has also teamed up with the RSPB's Homes for Wildlife initiative. The RSPB will give BDP ongoing habitat advice to increase their chances of attracting the rare birds.

"The living roof should provide ideal feeding habitats for redstarts, helping these rare and delightful birds to make a home in the city"

Matthew Capper, RSPB

Matthew Capper, of the RSPB's Northern England Region, said: "We are delighted that BDP are backing our Homes for Wildlife campaign and applaud the way they are creating rooftop habitat for black redstarts in Manchester.

"The living roof should provide ideal feeding habitats for redstarts, helping these rare and delightful birds to make a home in the city. Manchester has a growing reputation as a great place for urban birdlife and thanks to this initiative, black redstarts could soon become a more familiar part of the city's wildlife scene."

Gary Wilde, Architect Director at BDP, said: "In designing our new office we wanted to create a building which was as sustainable and environmentally-friendly as possible. During the planning we consulted with experts who have helped us develop the perfect habitat for the black redstarts.

"Now all we can do is wait to see if they want to make our building their new home."

Living roofs

Manchester City Council is encouraging living roofs as part of its goal to become Britain's greenest city. As well as providing wildlife habitats, they will also help the city adapt to climate change - absorbing carbon dioxide and helping prevent flooding by soaking up heavy rainfall, for example.

A wildlife-friendly living roof is also planned for the pavilion building in Piccadilly Gardens as part of an ongoing programme of improvements.

BDP is hoping to install a live webcam on the living roof to monitor any visits from redstarts or other wildlife. The new building itself will officially open this summer when over 250 staff will relocate.

last updated: 25/04/2008 at 09:43
created: 24/04/2008

You are in: Manchester > Nature > Nature features > Giving the redstart a headstart

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