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Latest Breeding Bird Survey results

News Item 2023

The latest annual report from the Breeding Bird Survey, extending to the year 2022, and incorporating the Waterways Breeding Bird Survey, are now available, providing population trends of the UK’s breeding birds.

The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a UK-wide scheme for monitoring changes in the breeding populations of the UK’s common and widespread breeding birds. In the most recent annual (2022) report, population trends for 118 bird species in the UK have been produced.

The results show that, across the UK, 37 species have significantly increased in the long term (since 1994), whilst 41 species have significantly declined. However, some species that are in decline are too rare to be monitored robustly, so may not be included in these figures. In addition, population increases include the expansion of recent colonists and non-native species.

As in previous years, the largest long-term increases are for Little Egret and Red Kite, whilst long-term declines continue for Turtle Dove, Willow Tit and Wood Warbler. There are also some positive signs for the farmland species Skylark and Corn Bunting, which have seen severe long-term declines in the past. The Skylark, which has seen a decline of 14% at a UK scale since 1995, and even greater declines since the 1960s, has increased by 9% over the past 10 years and by 8% in the past five years.

At a country- or regional-level the trends are a little more mixed. For example, the report shows that the Skylark has increased by 9% in England and 16% in Scotland over the past decade, with even more promising increases of nearly 20% over five years in south-east England and 10 years in the East Midlands. However, the recent increases in England and Scotland are not mirrored in Wales, where there has been a 23% decline since 2016. In Northern Ireland, numbers have been stable over the past decade, though this is set against a decline of 40% since 1994. These country-and regional-level trends allow us to understand both pressures such as climate change on species, and the effectiveness of action for nature recovery, at a more local scale.

Paul Woodcock, Biodiversity Evidence Specialist at JNCC, said: "The four countries of the UK have all made commitments to achieve nature recovery. The results here show the value of having annual monitoring schemes to track this, and to understand ongoing pressures like climate change and land-use change. Furthermore, because the Breeding Bird Survey involves thousands of skilled volunteers it can provide information not just for the UK as a whole but also for individual countries, and even regions within countries. This helps determine where action for nature recovery is being effective and where greater efforts are needed. We’re hugely grateful to all the volunteers who contribute their time and expertise every year to help maintain the BBS as a UK-wide source of high-quality data."

The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey is a partnership jointly funded by the BTO, RSPB and JNCC, and is carried out by volunteer birdwatchers throughout the UK. In 2022 over 2,700 skilled volunteers surveyed almost 4,000 sites across the UK, enabling us to monitor the population changes of the UK's common and widespread bird species. Knowing the extent to which bird populations are increasing or decreasing is fundamental to bird conservation. The partnership is indebted to all the volunteers for their tremendous support.

The latest report can be found on the BTO (British Trust for Ornithology) website.

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