The Breeding Bird Survey is a nationwide survey supported by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). As well as monitoring the population of birds, this survey also serves as a way of assessing the overall health of the countryside in general.
Birds are assessed depending on their conservation status and species during the survey. Rarer birds, such as the crane or spoonbill, can often be counted by a single surveyor. More common species were measured by statistical analysis. Unfortunately the results of this analysis suggested that 60% of species had declined and 31% had declined strongly. Such findings have been reflected in the data we have been collected by our ecological consultancy team.
In 2011, various species of migrant warblers had increased. However in 2012, poor weather conditions resulted in a decline in numbers. Declining species included the wood warbler, reedwarbler, pied flycatcher and nightingale. Of particular concern was greenfinches, a species that declined by more than 17% since the last survey in 1994.
There were also regional changes in trends. For example, in the north-west starlings declined the most and the nuthatch population increased the most. By contrast in the south-east, turtle doves decreased the most and the red kite population showed the most increase.
It is important to emphasise that changes in bird populations have also been positive. Studies have shown that the population of barn owls increased by 279% and red kites had increased by 676%, and the numbers of siskins and lesser redpolls have increased by 55% since 1994. Therefore declines in population can be reversed through appropriate schemes. The reason behind the increases are said to be due to new forestry habitats as well as more awareness and better bird feeding in gardens.
If these trends continue, and if the new schemes enhance opportunities for birds locally and nationally, then bird populations may benefit and increase in numbers in the future.