wild bird populations in the UK 1970-2017

DEFRA publish bird monitoring data

Monitoring data from UK bird surveys between 1970 and 2017 have been published by DEFRA.

Why monitor bird populations?

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 the short term and long term. Because they are a well-studied taxonomic group, drivers of change for birds are better understood than for other species groups, which enable better interpretation of any observed changes. Birds also have huge cultural importance and are highly valued as a part of the UK’s natural environment by the general public. However, the bird indicators presented in this publication are not intended, in isolation, as indicators of the health of the natural environment more widely.

What is the DEFRA National Statistics?

This annual DEFRA National Statistics Release presents data trends up to 2017 in populations of common birds (species with a population of at least 500 breeding pairs) that are native to, and breed in, the UK, with trends overall as well as for four main habitat groups (see Annex A for a list of birds in each group). The release also presents trends for wintering waterbirds, some of which also breed in the UK. The charts presented combine individual species indices into a single indicator to provide an overall trend for each group mentioned above. The indices are considered to give reliable medium to long-term trends but strong reliance should not be attached to short-term changes from year to year.

What are the results?

In summary the all species index has changed little over the period, although this hides losses in all but two of the categories – wintering birds are up 98% and water and wetland birds have no significant changes. There are significant losses to farmland birds, woodland birds and seabirds.

Bird Survey Data Summary

IndexLong term changeLong term datesShort term changeShort term dates
All bird species-7%
1970-2016no significant change2011-2016
Farmland birds-56%1970-2016-7%2011-2016
Woodland birds-24%1970-2016-5%2011-2016
Water and wetland birdsno significant change1970-2016no significant change2011-2016
Seabirds-20%1986-2014-6%2009-2014
Wintering waterbirds98%
1975/76-2015/16no significant change2010/11-2015/16

This post contains  public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.

Read the full report here.