Decline in migrating bird numbers [BBC 2006-03-20]
Decline in migrating bird numbers
[Photo] Greater spotted woodpecker. Different woodpecker species suffered mixed fates.
Birds which migrate long distances have suffered a population fall, the most extensive poll for 20 years has found.
It shows a 70 per cent decline in birds such as the tree pipit and spotted flycatcher in some areas.
The figures come from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds and the British Trust for Ornithology's Repeat Woodland Bird Survey.
Of 34 species, 11 showed national increases above 25 per cent. Eight decreased by more than 25 per cent.
Biodiversity Minister Jim Knight released the figures. They highlight the winners and losers in the bird population in the UK's changing landscape and climate.
There were unexpected increases in some resident bird species and mid-distance migrants.
More common birds such as coal, blue and great tits increased in number.
Rare bird worry
But concern is heightened for the rarer willow tit, down more than 70 per cent in some places.
Green and greater spotted woodpeckers showed an increase of more than 200% in some locations but lesser spotted woodpeckers were down 59%.
Mr Knight said: "Woodland birds are a vital part of our natural heritage and, while some of the birds featured in this report are familiar to us from back gardens and parks across the country, others like the willow tit and tree pipit are less common and becoming rarer.
"This report gives us clear scientific evidence for these changes.
"It not only tells us about the species themselves, but is a useful indicator of wider biodiversity issues within our countryside, that are impacting on our birds."
The research was commissioned and funded by Defra, the Forestry Commission, RSPB, BTO, the Woodland Trust and English Nature.
It was carried out with the support of the UK Woodland Bird Group - a forum that brings together a wide range of organisations concerned about bird populations.
The study covered 406 woodland sites and allows data comparison with similar surveys carried out in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s.
Wild bird populations are one of the government's 15 headline indicators of sustainable development.
There has been growing concern about falls in woodland bird populations - down 20 per cent between 1976 and 2001, according to the government's Wildbird Population Framework Indicator.
Report co-author Rob Fuller, of the British Trust for Ornithology, said the study provided a more in-depth examination of what is happening to bird populations within woodlands.
"The declines in those summer visitors that spend the winter in Africa were more serious than we were expecting," he said.
"At the same time, it has been reassuring to see that several species are thriving in woodlands, such as chiffchaffs, blackcaps, great tits and coal tits."