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Where are all the birds going?

Wild bird populations have been falling sharply, despite apparent small scale recoveries, figures released by the government have revealed.  With only seabirds immune to the decline in population, farmland numbers have fallen to less than half of the levels seen in the 1970s.

The RSPB has said that the changes are largely attributed to changes in habitat, with fewer nesting sites and shortages of readily available food blamed for the losses in farmland birds, while the British trust for Ornithology believes that modern intensive farming techniques are to blame as they can lead to less vegetation. However, reasons for a similar decline in woodland species are more difficult to ascertain with species such as the willow tit, spotted woodpecker, tawny owl, tree pipit & others also in severe decline.

Although figures for water & wetland birds have only been available since the 1970s, their populations appear to be more stable, despite fluctuation. Species more naturally suited to slow moving or standing water have seen an overall increase of 73%, despite birds which favour wet grassland shown to have declined by 56%, with fast flowing water birds down 17%.

Seabirds overall remain largely unaffected, however even here species such as the Arctic Skaus, Kittiwakes and others are declining in number.

In wader and wintering wildfowl species the news is mixed too – overall levels are still above those seen in the mid 1970s, and while some species such as pintail, mallard redshank are in decline, there are more than ten times the number of Brent Geese and Gadwall, with a six-fold swell in the number of Black Tailed Godwit.


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