Eider ducks 'not protected' by Northumberland conservation zone
A bird first protected in AD 675 is not covered by new marine conservation zones (MCZ), a wildlife group has said.
The Northumberland coast is recognised for its colonies of eiders, whose numbers are declining.
The government introduced 50 MCZs, with more planned, saying it was "vital that we protect our marine environment".
But the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds the eider ducks on the county's coast were not currently covered by the legislation.
The charity is asking the government to add the ducks to the MCZ covering the stretch of water between Whitley Bay and Alnwick.
Marine conservation officer Anna Cucknell said giving the birds "protection in their sea-based feeding and wintering habitats is essential" to stop their numbers "plummeting further".
"Although the government has committed to protecting some of the habitats off the Northumberland coast, the Marine Conservation Zone won't provide any direct protection for eider ducks or any of the other seabirds that live here," she said.
The MCZ order for the Northumberland coast - which lists protected features - includes rock, mud, sand and other habitat, but not specific species.
Eider ducks, also known as Cuddy's ducks after St Cuthbert who introduced laws to protect them in the 7th Century, are declining throughout Europe as a result of hunting, pollution and disturbance.