Why has the British Population of Birds Declined?

Why is the British Population of Birds Declining


Official data shows that birds which live around UK's woodlands and farms are still declining. In 2019 data showed that native birds in the UK are 11% lower than they were in 1970. The data also showed that birds which live around farmlands have fallen by 57% since 1970. The birds included in these delcines are the starling, turtle dove, tree sparrow, grey partridge, song thrush, lapwing and also the skylark.




There are a number of reasons why the decline is still happening. Some including the increase of farm chemicals, although farms have now started to use chemicals which are less, if not at all harmful to the birds, to try and rise the populations. Ploughing closer to the hedge lines, knocking down old farm buildings and increased human efficiency are only a few reasons why they are declining. We are taking away the birds natural habitat! Although the effects of the decline are similar, all species react differently, which is why some birds decline has been noticed within 10 years and others have been noticed within 30 years.


The Common Bird Census recorded between 1970 and 1990, the percentage of declines. Here are some of the birds declinal. 

  • Starling - 71%
  • Song Thrush - 56%
  • Woodpecker - 74% 
  • Turtle Dove - 71%
  • Willow Tit - 78% 
  • Bullfinch - 53% 
  • Cuckoo - 33%
  • Tree Sparrow - 95%


Over the years there have been many changes in the way we farm our land, which has had a bad affect on the birds. Today we understand more about the causes of which made the birds decline in numbers in the first place. Although this is thought to be the reason for birds in urban areas and suburban areas, 80% of the UK is farmland so this will in turn affect birds in all habitats.




Another reason for the birds in the UK declining is that of the weather. During the winter if it is a prolonged cold winter, smaller birds such as the wrens, blue tits and robins are affected by cold periods of the winter months. When out in these harsh conditions, food can become sparce, which is why it is really important that we do what we can, even more so during winter, to help the birds get through these tough seasons. 


What can you do to help?

Reduce, reuse and recycle! Where ever you are, if you can do your part to recycle, you know you are helpig the environment. Things you can do include recycling, cutting down on transport and buying organic fruit and veg. The less litter that is being left lying around, the more the population of birds can hopefully start to rise again. The more we can do to help increase the rise of birds again, the better. Especially those of which have taken a drastic decline such as the turtle dove, the nightingale and the cuckoo.


"We now know that garden bird feeding is one of many important environmetal factors affecting Britsh bird numbers. Regular visits to garden feeders in urban areas appear to have lead to population growth across more than 30 different bird species" Dr Kate Plummer, Resesarch Ecologist at BTO.


Research from BTO reveals that the types and amount of garden bird communities have significantly changed over the past 40 years. Due to more and more people feeding garden birds, it has really helped grow some bird species. It is estimated that we now spend around £200-300 mllion on bird food and bird products each year as a country. This could potentially keep the population of 196 million bird species rising. The largest spike since garden bird feeding are the Goldfinches and the Woodpigeons. 

If everyone does their part in helping the environment, hopefully one day we can increase the bird population.






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