State of UK Birds Report 2012


The State of the UK’s Birds 2012 report charts the ups and downs of bird populations in the UK over the last few decades. The report celebrates the vital role of the thousands of dedicated volunteers in bird monitoring, whose contribution underpins bird conservation in the UK and enables this report to be published. The data collected by volunteers allows indicators to be produced, giving a broad picture of the ups and downs of the UK’s bird populations. This partnership between volunteers and the organisations who collate, analyse and present the data ensures maximum benefits for conservation. For the last 85 years volunteers in the UK have been counting the grey heron, making it the longest running monitoring of any bird species in the world!


House sparrow © Andy Hay/RSPBThe 2012 report estimates that there are 166 million nesting birds in the UK, compared with 210 million nesting birds in 1966. The house sparrow has seen one of the greatest losses of any bird in the UK although numbers have started to increase since the millennium. Whilst many bird population trends have been downwards, there are some species which have shown an increase. Goldfinch, nuthatch and blackcap all show both long-term and short-term increases in estimated populations. Also notably increasing has been a familiar garden visitor, the collared dove, whose numbers of breeding pairs in 2009 were estimated to be approaching one million.


There have been many changes in the UK which have affected birds, most notably changes in land use and the management of our countryside and seas – these can change the amount or quality of key resources needed by birds, such as suitable places to nest or availability of food in summer or winter. However, for some species, including the house sparrow, the precise reasons behind these declines aren’t fully understood.


Also included in the report is the latest information on the number of ducks, geese, swans and waders spending the winter in the UK; and an update on the internationally-important birds, including albatrosses and penguins, occurring in the UK’s Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.


Rockhopper penguin © Nick Rendell

The UK Overseas Territories hold some of the world’s most vulnerable birds, facing threats including fishery by-catch, oil-spills, airport expansion and volcanic eruptions. The report particularly highlights the southern and northern rockhopper penguins. The northern rockhopper penguin is globally endangered, with over 80% of its population occurring on Tristan da Cunha and Gough Island in the central South Atlantic. Population declines in excess of 90% have been recorded at Tristan and Gough Island and similar large-scale declines have also occurred for the southern rockhopper penguin.


David Stroud, of JNCC, said: “This report highlights the value of undertaking a periodic ‘stock-check’ of bird numbers in the UK – information central to many aspects of conservation.  Thanks to the efforts of the bird watching community, such assessments are readily available within the UK, but these data do not exist for most of our Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies.  We need to strengthen efforts to establish routine survey and monitoring in these areas in the light of their global importance for many bird species.”


The State of the UK’s Birds 2012 report is produced by RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology, the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England, the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage, and JNCC.



Contact File


David Stroud

Senior Ornithological Adviser

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866810

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