Official Bird Indicators just published and it’s not all bad news

Published on 18 May 2017 in News and comment

The latest Wild Bird Populations in the UK report, just published, shows that there has been a slight upturn in the recent fortunes of some species.

Yellow Wagtail, Jill Pakenham

For over a decade now many of our birds have been showing worrying declines but the latest report shows that 2015 proved to be a good year for some. In particular, farmland birds have been declining since the late seventies in the UK, but between 2014 and 2015 the farmland bird indicator for the UK showed a significant 6% increase. This is mainly due to an increase in the indicator for farmland generalist species. Conversely, farmland specialist species, which are those that are highly dependent on farmland habitat, did not show a significant change over the same time period. It is unclear at this stage whether this is the beginning of a change in their fortunes or just a short-term blip. It is also unclear what might be responsible for this change.

The BTO’s Amanda Trask said ‘This is great news but we shouldn’t get too carried away at this stage. These short-term upturns are against a backdrop of long-term decline and we still have a long way to go before our birds are out of trouble. What we can be sure of is that the wonderful volunteers who monitor our birds will continue to keep an eye on them into the future, ensuring that we know exactly how they are doing.’

Since 1970 the UK wild bird indicators suggest we have lost over half of our farmland birds, almost a fifth of our woodland birds and just under a quarter of our seabirds. More recently these declines have slowed and when we look at all species combined there has been a 6% decline between 2009 and 2014, with generalist species doing better than the specialists.

Wild Bird Populations in the UK, 1970 to 2015 is published by DEFRA and the bird population indices are compiled in conjunction with the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

To see the full report, visit