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Dwindling numbers of common bird species revealed in report

10:06 11 January 2015

Starling

Starling

Archant

House Sparrows, Starlings and Spotted Flycatchers are among three species of garden birds that are experiencing severe declines, a new report has revealed.

House SparrowHouse Sparrow

The British Trust for Ornithology’s (BTO) latest BirdTrends report shows that the three species are among a number whose prominence is dwindling, especially in urban and suburban areas.

The report summarises the population trends for 120 breeding species across Britain & Ireland using data collected by volunteer surveyors.

For the first time, this year’s report has provided habitat-specific trends for many species.

The findings are that 28 species are showing a fall in numbers greater than 50pc over the last 35 to 45 years.

Dr Stephen Baillie, senior research fellow and lead author of the report, said the data showed national decreases are continuing.

“The results of BTO surveys show that many familiar garden birds are experiencing problems. House Sparrow numbers have dropped by almost 70pc since the 1960s and the data suggest that sparrows occupying urban and suburban habitats are faring worst,” he said.

The range of birds in decline also appears to be increasing, according to co-author John Marchant.

While many will be familiar with the disappearance of House Sparrow, Starling and Spotted Flycatcher, it may surprise people to know that House Martin, Mistle Thrush and Greenfinch are heading in the same direction.

The figures come weeks before the launch of the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch on January 24 and 25.

What do you think of the decline? Email andrew.fitchett@archant.co.uk

18 comments

  • 3.7 billion birds are eaten by cats each year as irresponsible cat owners let their domesticated pets run riot. Add to that pesticides, Fortean already pointed to Rachel Carsons 1960 publication and you become aware that we are not learning from past mistakes.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, January 15, 2015

  • The Fortean has put his finger on it when he speaks of pesticide impact and our badly controlled felines. Huffington post in an article reckons that 3.7billion birds are killed by cats each year, down to irresponsible owners who can't keep their domesticated cats indoors, who let them roam, defecate in other peoples gardens and kill birds and anything else that moves in the right way. Nicotinoids have been banned by many countries due to their impact on the bee population, not here sadly, so any birds that feed on small insects will also get poisoned by these pesticides, when birds on their own account are a far better pest control to farmers. But these birds have to live somewhere and modern crew cut hedge management does not make it easy for them.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Thursday, January 15, 2015

  • The RSPB have been encouraging Sparrowhawks these last few years. These not only eat Sparrows, but other small birds too. I've seen a large increase in Corvids (Magpies, crows, rooks and ravens). These eat eggs from other birds' nests. Populations vary over time, it's a natural phenomenon. Migratory species may not be getting back to Britain for various reasons. Incidentally, I often hear skylarks over the fields where I live. I've even heard them over waste ground in CostessyLongwater.

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    Lord Elf

    Wednesday, January 14, 2015

  • BTO member surveys are not worth the paper they are written on because they are just that. There are loads of starlings out on the fields, the numbers are not dwindling, they are in different places when the count is taken If it is not frosty when the next one is taken then many "garden " birds will be out on the fields and in the hedgerows. Householders are to blame for the lack of nesting starlings and sparrows -bird proof plastic everywhere so they cannot get in the roofs-but the sparrow decline is long term and I believe associated with the loss of the cart horse and open cattle yards on every farm and EU laws on grain cleanliness which means all grainstores must be bird proof. There are more lapwings everywhere I go this winter and there are migrant field fares and redwings and flocks of mixed finches in the hedgerows The spotted flycatcher is a migrant bird so the blame for the loss may not rest in the UK. All I know is my idiot neighbour who is a bird lover created a sparrowhawk feeding station by putting a bird table out in the open and the black bird population in my neighbourhood has plummeted.

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    Daisy Roots

    Sunday, January 11, 2015

  • There was an article in the Thetford & Brandon re the rapidly dwindling numbers of swans and ducks. The usual places where the birds congregated were frequented by EU migrants (drinking in groups, etc).

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    Karl Healthland

    Sunday, January 11, 2015

  • Why simply report bird numbers are falling, without any suggestion why? This is poor reporting. Can't you do a little research or ask the RSPB or another expert?

    Report this comment

    Frank

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • The population of any animal is affected by a number of things; habitat, food, predation and breeding success. The report by the RSPB can be accessed directly, and this is preferable to a second-hand piece of nonsense in the “popular” press. That said the report places most of the problem in “habitat” and modern farming practice which obviously also involves “food”. I wonder if this also impacts on breeding success; I am thinking of Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring”. Predation is another issue and I say, “May we be protected from ‘Animal Lovers’” Felis cattus has already been implicated. While it is false to say that cats are non native to these islands, (qv. Felis silvestris) domestic cats are present in large numbers and high concentrations and are the number one predators of fledged garden birds. For eggs and baby birds in nests up in trees we need to look elsewhere to predatory rodents Rattus norvegicus we all detest, but they are not an agile arboreal species. Sciurus carolinensis is, but they are so cute, and ubiquitous! I am sure that the members of the anthropomorphic brigade have no idea that the greys eat anything except nuts!

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    The Fortean

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • It is a sign of changing environment. We have plenty of common pigeons and woodland pigeons and I find them a pest. We moved to our house 14 yrs ago and I too remember a mass of starlins whenever we put food out but not now. I blame the unnatural abundance of cats. Disgusting little creatures and people should be made to attach little bells to their collars to give a bird a tiny chance of surviving an attack. These cat owners are ignorant to the impact this vile creature is having on our eco system.

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    Dude

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • Dude

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • When we moved to our current house some 30 years ago there were loads of birds in the garden. Thrushes were common - they used to break snail shells on the paving stones - I haven't seen one in years. Lots of blackbirds and starlings - so many starlings we used to moan that they took all the bird food - now we hardly see any. Greenfinches, chaffinches all gone. We do still have some sparrows which live in our hedge. We used to have 20 - 30 collared doves turn up every morning for the food we put out, now there may be one or two and I did see a robin the other day. On the bright side we do now get some goldfinches in the spring who stay for a few weeks then go..

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    smithy

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • It seems to me that we are now limited to small pockets of wildlife, while vast areas, especially some farmland seems almost sterile.

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    Twig Stevens

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • I'm endorsing Solomon's comments - Domestic Cats are an absolute menace our No1 Pest - they are not a natural predator. Short of harming them we try everything to keep them out of our garden but if we go away for a few days they are back. We had Bluetits nest in our garden a couple of years ago and tried to keep a permanent vigil but we went away for a few days and returned to evidence that cats had had the fledgelings. This is in addition to the cat fouling in the garden - anyone else had their grandchildren discover this when they are playing - it's foul! From our perspective cats are on the increase and the stupid thing is that while they are destroying a significant part of our environment and heritage most of their owners would class themselves as animal lovers!

    Report this comment

    wallywalnut

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • "....blister...." .... aka The Archant Troll..... you really ought to see someone you know.

    Report this comment

    LARSON.E. WHIPSNADE

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • "The most recent figures are from the Mammal Society, which estimates that the UK's cats catch up to 275 million prey items a year, of which 55 million are birds. This is the number of prey items that were known to have been caught; we don't know how many more the cats caught, but didn't bring home, or how many escaped but subsequently died." RSPCA If in any doubt and are of a certain age, or not stick your head out of the door and take a listen. Not much bird song is there? A real change in our environment and sound scape and kind of sad for those that can remember what it was like could truly appreciate it. As well as loss of habitat, disease, and natural predation, the pet cat has some impact. Jut a thought ...The compulsory wearing of a "bird safe collar" may help restore a more natural balance, you would think. The increase of pet and feral cats is an unnatural predator. Check out RSPCA report. Also Bird Hunting legal and illegal in all countries on migratory paths. Happy new year to all. Oh, If you know any where in Norwich where you can hear some sparrows regularly chirping away ,wonderful I would love to hear a skylark later in the year. ahh the memories of youth.

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    Solomon

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • There has been a massive increase in our population in the past 10 years with people arriving from all over the world creating the need for huge new housing estates, schools, hospital and roads, it is hardly surprising that our wildlife is being pushed out to smaller and smaller pockets of countryside

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    blister

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • Cats i would say. Weve seen them in the park killing 4 or more different birds every day. Unneutered cats I hasten to add

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    Candy Jones

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • I say, I read on the UKIP website that migrants from eastern Europe are at fault. Apparently small garden birds are a delicacy in their culture.

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    Mr Cameron lstellingIies

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

  • 'They' build bat boxes and have bat corridors, frog and newt crossings etc but forgot all that when new builds came along, making certain birds wouldn't be able to nest in new housing, so the birds can whistle, no nests ....No birds...

    Report this comment

    Stop Press

    Saturday, January 10, 2015

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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