News & comment – July 2024

News & comment – July 2024

30 years of BBS

Last year was the 30th year of fieldwork for the BTO/RSPB/JNCC Breeding Bird Survey (BBS), designed to document population trends of widespread breeding species in Britain. Since 1994, trends have been produced using BBS data for 119 species, which are used to set conservation priorities and to inform a broad range of conservation action. Since its inception, nearly 9,000 volunteers have submitted close to eight million records to the scheme, consisting of 300 species from 176,100 visits – in total, this amounts to over 300,000 hours of fieldwork.

Over the Scheme’s lifetime, 35 species have shown increasing trends, most notably the Red Kite Milvus milvus, which has increased by 2,232% since 1995. However, 42 species have shown declining long-term trends, the most significant being European Turtle Dove Streptopelia turtur, which has decreased by 97% since 1995. The latest year-on-year trends are, however, slightly more positive, with 20 species showing increasing trends and only nine showing decreasing trends; this includes an 84% increase in Firecrest Regulus ignicapilla numbers between 2022 and 2023. However, some of the heaviest declines may be masked by the most recent BBS data: species such as Turtle Dove and Willow Tit Poecile montanus are now so scarce that BBS cannot monitor them effectively.

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