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THE UK population of wild birds is almost 10% higher than ten years ago and some endangered species appear to be making a comeback, according to DEFRA’s annual ‘wild bird population indicator’ survey.


But, although overall numbers are up, the farmland bird index showed little change over recent years and numbers remain around 56% of the 1970 level, figures revealed.


There is some variation among species, with Chiffchaff, Greenfinch, Whitethroat and Tree Sparrow showing strong signs of recovery, while numbers of Kestrel and Yellow Wagtail fell between 2003 and 2004 to 36% of 1970 population.


Even though bird populations are a good gauge of the general state of the countryside, exact reasons for the changes in various species are unknown, commented Elliot Morley, minister for climate change and environment.


“I am pleased to see that a long-term decline in some species has stabilised and improved in recent years, but there is still cause for concern – for example in the case of Grey Partridge, Turtle Dove and Willow Tit.”


He believes more farmers joining new environmental stewardship schemes will secure safe breeding and feeding grounds and help restore numbers of farmland birds.


The biggest recovery since 1970 was in the number of wetland birds such as Puffin and Gannet, which increased by 34%, the survey also showed. Some experts predict numbers could fall slightly this year due to poorer breeding success.


The ‘wild bird population indicator’ is compiled by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology and covers 111 species of native birds.


It is also one of 20 UK Framework Indicators under the UK government’s Sustainable Development Strategy and the latest statistics can be found at www.defra.gov.uk