State of the UK's Birds 2013


The latest State of the UK's Birds report reveals striking changes to many of our most familiar countryside birds. The report, published jointly by JNCC, the statutory nature conservation bodies and non-governmental organisations, reveals major changes in numbers and distribution of many species over the last 20 years, which have implications for conservation policy.

Red Kite (Milvus milvus) © Dreamstime


Due to the dedication of thousands of volunteers, birds in the UK are regularly monitored through schemes such as the 'Breeding Birds Survey' and the 'Wetland Birds Survey' (WeBS). These schemes are run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), RSPB and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WeBS only) in partnership with JNCC. Some results of particular concern include the numbers of both Grey Partridge and Turtle Dove which have halved since 1995. The British Yellow Wagtail, whose population is found almost entirely in the UK, has declined by 45 percent over the same period.  However,  there have been increases in several common woodland species such as Blue Tit and Great Spotted Woodpecker, and a dramatic increase in the impressive bird of prey - the Red Kite.


The State of the UK’s Birds 2013 report follows the recent publication by the BTO of a new comprehensive Bird Atlas of Britain and Ireland, which presents more detailed information on some of these changes. The Atlas incorporated data from over 40,000 volunteer recorders who surveyed almost every 1km square in the UK. This phenomenal effort has enabled us to see changes in species range as well as their population.


The Red Kite has dramatically expanded its range following reintroduction programmes and has recovered from past persecution which brought it to the verge of extinction in the UK.  It is now a common sight in many parts of the country. In contrast, several species in the wider countryside have shown contractions in range due to agricultural intensification and other land use changes, for example the Cirl Bunting, Corn Bunting and Turtle Dove.  These changes demonstrate the need for conservation action across the whole of the UK landscape, for example through the various agri-environment schemes operating in different parts of the UK.


Further afield, the UK has responsibility for many rare and threatened species in its Overseas Territories. David Stroud, JNCC’s Senior Ornithological Adviser, said: “The UK’s Overseas Territories contain more species of bird facing extinction than the whole of mainland Europe. Twenty-one of these species occur nowhere else in the world.” 


The State of the UK’s Birds report reveals that despite 32 bird species in the UK’s Overseas Territories facing extinction, there have been some good news stories as a result of concerted conservation action.  A programme to eradicate non-native mammalian predators resulted in two breeding pairs of the endemic Ascension Frigatebird being discovered on the Ascension Island mainland – the first confirmed breeding record there for over 120 years! However, non-native species still remain a major threat to birds on many other Overseas Territories and addressing these problems is a priority.


Contact File


David Stroud

Senior Ornithological Adviser

Tel: +44 (0) 1733 866810


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