Farmland birds reach their lowest point in England

Farmland bird populations in England have fell to their lowest level since 1970, figures published recently by DEFRA reveal.

Although the latest statistics reveal farmland bird numbers in England have stabilised sine the dramatic fall of the 1980s, numbers remain at nearly 60% of those recorded in the 1960s and ‘70s.

The report, Wild Bird Populations 2006 also reveals a 25% to 30% fall in woodland bird populations.  Of the 116 species covered in the report several woodland bird species are in the greatest decline with Lesser Redpoll, Willow Tit and Tree Pipit declining particularly severely. 

However, other woodland specialists such as Great Spotted Woodpecker, Green Woodpecker and Nuthatch have increased.

Across the United Kingdom, however, the picture is slightly better.  Farmland bird numbers are at about 55% of the 1970, but have remained stable since the early 1990s.

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds was quick to highlight the fall in farmland bird numbers and described the move to zero per cent set aside for 2008 as “terrible news for farmland birds”.

“Farmland birds are a barometer by which the government measures the health of the countryside,” said Sue Armstrong-Brown, head of RSPB countryside policy. 

“We wish there was a better story to tell, but the farmland bird index reaching its lowest point is extremely depressing news.”

Populations of seabirds and UK wintering wetland birds also fell, but are well above levels recorded during the base years.