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C5. Birds of the wider countryside and at sea

a. Farmland birds

b. Woodland birds

c. Wetland birds

d. Seabirds – not updated, see note under figure C5di

e. Wintering waterbirds

Type: State indicator

Indicator Description

The indicator shows relative changes in the abundance of common native birds of farmland and woodland and of freshwater and marine habitats in the UK. Bird populations have long been considered to provide a good indication of the broad state of wildlife in the UK. This is because they occupy a wide range of habitats and respond to environmental pressures that also operate on other groups of wildlife. In addition, there are considerable long-term data on trends in bird populations, allowing for comparison between short term and long term changes. Because they are a well-studied taxonomic group, drivers of change for birds are better understood than for some other species groups, which enables interpretation of observed changes.

Contents

  1. Summary
  2. Downloads

Summary

  In 2017, the UK farmland bird index was less than half (46%) of its 1970 value. Short term, between 2011 and 2016, the smoothed index decreased by 7%.

 The woodland bird index was 25% less than its 1970 value in 2017. Short term, between 2011 and 2016, the smoothed index decreased by 5%.

 In 2017, the water and wetland bird index showed no significant change since 1975. Short term, between 2011 and 2016 the smoothed index increased by 3%.  

 In 2015 the breeding seabird index was 22% below its 1986 value. Short term, between 2009 and 2014 the index declined by 6% - see note under figure C5di.

 In 2016/17, the wintering waterbirds index was 106% higher than in 1975/76. Short term, between 2010/11 and 2015/16, the smoothed index showed no significant change.

Figure C5ai. Breeding farmland birds in the UK, 1970 to 2017

A line graph showing how the trend for the UK farmland bird index has changed between 1970 and 2017. The smoothed index shows the UK farmland bird index falling sharply to 46% of its 1970 value. Most of this decline occurred between the late 1970s and early 1980s. The unsmoothed index shows year-on-year variation. A bar chart showing the percentage of individual species within the UK farmland bird index that have shown a statistically significant increase, a statistically significant decrease or no statistically significant change over both the long term (since 1970) and short term (2011 to 2016).

Notes:

  1. The line graph shows the unsmoothed trend (dashed line) and smoothed trend (solid line) with its 95% confidence interval shaded.
  2. The figure in brackets shows the number of species in the index.
  3. The bar chart shows the percentage of species within the indicator that have increased, decreased, or shown no change, based on set thresholds of annual change.

Source: British Trust for Ornithology, Defra, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Figure C5bi. Breeding woodland birds in the UK, 1970 to 2017

A line graph showing how the trend for the UK woodland bird index has changed between 1970 and 2017. The smoothed index shows significant decline between 1970 and 1995. Since 1995 the index has been more stable. The unsmoothed index shows considerable year-on-year variation.    A bar chart showing the percentage of individual species within the UK woodland bird index that have shown a statistically significant increase, a statistically significant decrease or no statistically significant change over both the long term (since 1970) and short term (2011 to 2016).

Notes:

  1. The line graph shows the unsmoothed trend (dashed line) and smoothed trend (solid line) with its 95% confidence interval shaded.
  2. The figure in brackets shows the number of species in the index.
  3. The bar chart shows the percentage of species within the indicator that have increased, decreased, or shown no change, based on set thresholds of annual change.

Source: British Trust for Ornithology, Defra, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Figure C5ci. Breeding water and wetland birds in the UK, 1975 to 2017

A line graph showing how the trend for the UK water and wetland bird index has changed between 1975 and 2017. The smoothed index has remained fairly stable since 1975.  The unsmoothed index shows considerable year-on-year variation. A bar chart showing the percentage of individual species within the UK water and wetland bird index that have shown a statistically significant increase, a statistically significant decrease or no statistically significant change over both the long term (since 1975) and short term (2011 to 2016).

Notes:

  1. The line graph shows the unsmoothed trend (dashed line) and smoothed trend (solid line) and its 95% confidence interval shaded.
  2. The figure in brackets shows the number of species in the index.
  3. The bar chart shows the percentage of species within the indicator that have increased, decreased, or shown no change, based on set thresholds of annual change.

Source: British Trust for Ornithology, Defra, Environment Agency, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

Figure C5di. Breeding seabirds in the UK, 1986 to 2015 – not updated, see note below figure C5di

A line graph showing how the unsmoothed trend for the UK seabird index has changed between 1986 and 2015. There is no smoothed trend available for seabirds. The trend for seabirds shows a fairly stable pattern from 1986 until the mid-2000s and from then on seabird numbers started to decline. A bar chart showing the percentage of individual species within the UK seabird index that have shown a statistically significant increase, a statistically significant decrease or no statistically significant change over both the long term (since 1986) and short term (2009 to 2014).

Notes:

  1. The line graph shows the unsmoothed trend (dashed line) – no smoothed trend is available for seabirds, as individual species population trends are analysed using an imputation procedure that does not include smoothing. As data are based on a mixture of full counts and sample sites, standard bootstrapping methods used for other indicators cannot be applied.
  2. The figure in brackets shows the number of species in the index.
  3. The bar chart shows the percentage of species within the indicator that have increased, decreased, or shown no change, based on set thresholds of annual change.
  4. In 2016, the Seabird Monitoring Programme (SMP) Steering Group made the decision to put the analysis and publication of the annual SMP report on hold for 2 years. The reason for this was to enable staff time to be dedicated to the current breeding seabird census, Seabirds Count. Although SMP data is still being collected, and in higher volumes for the census, the absence of analysed data for 2016 and 2017 means this indicator has not been updated.

Source: British Trust for Ornithology, Defra, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Seabird Monitoring Programme (co-ordinated by Joint Nature Conservation Committee).

Figure C5ei. Wintering waterbirds in the UK, 1975/76 to 2016/17

A line graph showing how the trend for the UK wintering waterbirds index has changed between 1975/76 and 2016/17. The smoothed trend shows considerable increase for UK wintering waterbirds since 1975/76. The unsmoothed trend shows year-on-year variation.  A bar chart showing the percentage of individual species within the UK wintering waterbirds index that have shown a statistically significant increase, a statistically significant decrease or no statistically significant change over both the long term (since 1975/76) and short term (2010/11 to 2015/16).

Notes:

  1. The line graph shows the unsmoothed trend (dashed line) and smoothed trend (solid line).
  2. The figure in brackets shows the number of species in the index.
  3. The bar chart shows the percentage of species within the indicator that have increased, decreased, or shown no change, based on set thresholds of annual change.
  4. Based on financial years.
  5. Data from surveys of wintering waterbirds are based on full counts on wetland and coastal sites of markedly varying size. This means that standard indicator bootstrapping methods cannot be applied.

Source: British Trust for Ornithology, Defra, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust.

Assessment of change in bird populations

 

Long term

Short term

Latest year

Farmland birds


1970–2016


2011–2016

Increased (2017)

Woodland birds


1970–2016


2011–2016

No change (2017)

Wetland birds

1975–2016

2011–2016

No change (2017)

Wintering waterbirds


1975/76–2015/16


2010/11–2015/16

Increased (2016/17)

Notes:

  1. Whilst latest year percentage changes in these indices are reported based on the most recent unsmoothed data point (2017), the formal long-term and short-term assessments of the statistical significance of these changes are made using the smoothed data to 2016. This is because the most recent smoothed data point (2017) is likely to change in next year’s update when additional data are included for 2018.  
  2. Analysis of the underlying trends is undertaken by the data providers. Smoothed data are available for farmland, woodland, wetland and wintering waterbirds, but not for seabirds.
  3. The traffic light assessment for the seabirds measure has been removed until a way of assessing variability is devised. This follows recommendations in a quality assurance science panel report, dated January 2016.

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Downloads

Download the Fiche, Datasheet and Technical background document from the JNCC Resource Hub

Last updated: September 2019

Latest data available: 2017 (farmland birds, woodland birds, wetland birds); 2015 (seabirds); 2016/17 (wintering waterbirds)

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Categories:

UK Biodiversity Indicators 2019

Published: .

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