New report highlights continuing declines in UK birds

Yellow wagtail. Photo by Paul MarshallAnnual statistic release from Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra)

Statistics released today by the UK Government show alarming declines in birds across all habitats.

The report, Wild bird populations in the UK, 1970-2013, shows that overall, breeding bird populations in the UK have declined compared with 40 years ago. In 2013, the all-species index was 12 per cent below its 1970 level, and there was a small but significant decline of five per cent from 2007 to 2012. However, trends vary between individual bird species, between habitat types and between groups oStock dove. Photo by Mick Drydenf species that share the same habitat type.

By 2013, the UK breeding farmland bird index had fallen by 55 per cent to a level less than half that of 1970. The largest declines in farmland bird populations occurred between the late seventies and the early nineties, but there has been a statistically significant on-going decline of ten per cent between 2007 and 2012.

Spotted flycatcher. Photo by Mick DrydenIn 2013, the UK breeding woodland bird index was 28 per cent lower than its 1970 level. The greatest decline in the series occurred from the early eighties until the mid-nineties, after which the trend stabilised.

In 2013, the UK breeding water and wetland bird index was 17 per cent lower than its 1975 level. There was a significant decline in the smoothed index of 12 per cent in the short term between 2007 and 2012.

Kittiwake. Photo by Mick DrydenSeabird populations in the UK have fallen by 24 per cent since 1986; this is the lowest level recorded. Most of the decline has occurred since 2003; there has been a decline of nine per cent in the short term since 2008.

In the winter of 2012-13, the wintering waterbird index in the UK was almost double its 1975-76 level (up 95 per cent). The index peaked in the late 1990s and has declined since, with the smoothed index falling by almost five per cent between 2006-07 and 2011-12.

Download the full report here