The distribution and numbers of birds in the UK are changing dramatically, with many species experiencing worrying declines according to a new report.
The State of the UK’s Birds 2020 (SUKB) - the one-stop shop for all the latest results from bird surveys and monitoring studies – this year highlights the continuing poor fortunes of the UK’s woodland birds.
The woodland bird indicator shows a long-term decline of 27% since the early 1970s, with declines of 7% evident over just the last five years. More worryingly some specialist woodland birds have declined dramatically, including willows tits, which have shown the second biggest decline of any UK bird. The breeding populations of five other species (lesser spotted woodpecker, lesser redpoll, spotted flycatcher, capercaillie and marsh tit), are now less than a quarter of what they were 50 years ago. Changes in the way our woodlands are managed are thought to be the main cause.
The report does contain better news for some species. In Wales, house sparrows increased by 92% from 1995 to 2018. Across the whole of the UK, house sparrow is still the third most common breeding bird, but the millions of pairs that have disappeared since monitoring started in the late 60s puts these increases in context.
Climate change is predicted to impact UK bird populations and, for example, is behind the increases in numbers of Cetti’s warblers. However, for several large waterbirds, including great white egrets, cattle egrets, little egrets, little bitterns and spoonbills, better protection of both the birds themselves and the wetland habitats they require also appear to be contributing to the increase.