Wild birds in the UK are an important measure of how healthy our countryside and ecology are, not least because our birds live in a diverse cross section of habitats and react to environmental pressures or changes. Knowing which bird species are thriving, which are struggling and why these trends are occurring, is all central to gaining a clear insight into what is happening in our countryside as well playing a critical part of bird conservation.
The Big Bird Watch plays an important role in gathering this information and identifying any trends over time in our bird population, as do a number of other organisations.
The RSPB, the British Trust of Ornithology, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee have all been gathering, monitoring, collating and interpreting bird data over many years and the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) and the State of UK Birds report 2015 (SUKB) are the UK’s main survey and report for our common bird population trends.
So as we eagerly await the result of this year’s Big Bird Watch, how is our bird population doing and what does that tell us?
|Image Credit: the-soc.org.uk|
The BBS and SUKB divide the UK’s bird population into 4 broad categories namely, farmland, woodland, wetland and coastland/marine and reports that across the board the UK’s bird population continues to be in decline, as it has been for the last 4 decades.
The decline of UK farmland bird populations in particular began in the late 1960s and ‘70s and in 2013 the farmland bird indicator reached its lowest ever level.
There are 26 species in significant decline in the UK and a further 7 species which are cause for concern. Turtle doves, grey partridge, corn buntings, skylarks, yellowhammers, kestrels and linnets are all examples of species that remain in significant decline.
It’s not hard to work out what the main causes of our wild bird decline are. Increasing use of pesticides, changes in farming and farmland and grassland management, increased agricultural intensification, climate change, disease and an increase in predators and urbanisation being the main and obvious culprits.
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On a more optimistic note, there are 20 species which have significantly increased in numbers, although the decreasing species still outweigh these increases, the gap is still widening and we certainly cannot afford to rest on our laurels. Tree sparrows, white throats, stock doves, green woodpecker, goldfinch and jackdaw are all in recovery, even if not always yet to the levels required.
There is much work a foot to help track and improve the overall wild bird trends. Recorded data is used to inform national policies on conservation, farming and land management and unexpected dips in a trend are a useful early warning signal that something might be a miss.
There are also a number of schemes wildly available aimed at encouraging farmers to use wildlife friendly techniques and numerous long term nationwide projects aimed at bird conservation and recovery.
Knowing how important our birdlife is to the overall wellbeing of our environment makes a compelling case for each of us doing what we can to help. There are lots of different ways in which you can make your garden more bird friendly or you can also check out some of our blogs for easy to implement ideas.
The first thing you will need to do is create an inviting environment for wildlife birds in your garden.
Consider converting to an organic garden or just ensuring that the birds that visit your garden have enough to eat through the winter, can all make a small but important difference. The goldfinch for example has increased most in urban and suburban areas which suggests that bird feeders may well be playing an important role.
Don’t forget about getting involved in the Big Bird Watch! If you have taken part, or are yet to, you’ve got until the 22nd February to submit your results. So far 194,399 surveys have been submitted, 305,280 people have taken part and 6,173,120 have been spotted. But if you missed it, you can still do your bit by monitoring the bird life that visits your garden throughout the year and submitting it to the RSPB.
|Image Credit: NWT|
If you want any extra guidance, on making your garden bird and wildlife friendly, we can help here. Perhaps you are already doing your bit. What steps have you taken to help the birds in your garden? Have you noticed any changes in particular species and why do you think that is? Share what you’ve seen or tried with us here on our social media sites, and let’s all do our bit to help stop the declining trend of the UK’s birds.