New figures show decline in many Scottish birds

New figures show decline in many Scottish birds

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New figures released this month by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have shown worrying declines in the populations of many Scottish birds.

The Index of Abundance for Scottish terrestrial breeding birds analysed trends between 1994 and 2013 and discovered that although woodland birds increased by 51 per cent, farmland bird numbers decreased - and populations of upland birds fell by a significant 21 per cent.

In particular, buzzards, greenfinches, jackdaws, kestrels, lapwings and skylarks were among the species found to be on the decline.

When short-term figures were taken into account for 2012-2013, farmland, woodland and all-species indices for Scottish birds were down by ten per cent.

Various suggestions were put forward to account for the observations recorded, some of which differed depending on species.

However, common reasons included reductions in food sources, a lack of suitable locations for nest-building, shortages of insects, poor weather conditions and outbreak of disease.

Indeed, with regard to the latter two, 2012 proved to be a particularly tough year climate-wise that saw fewer adult birds breeding, while greenfinches have also been struggling as a result of a parasitic condition called trichomonosis.

The news comes after farm minister George Eustice visited an RSPB reserve in October to discuss ways in which farmers can introduce new measures to address the decline in rare farmland birds on their land.

According to Farmers' Weekly, he suggested Defra may be interested in bringing in new key management prescriptions that include providing habitats for birds to nest, ensuring food is available in spring and addressing overwinter seed food shortages.

This will undoubtedly be great news for Scottish birds that rely on farmland, but there's lots that members of the public can do in order to help the populations of species that visit our gardens too.

For example, regularly putting out a seed mix suitable for several different species should ensure birds like finches and tits keep coming back and can build their energy reserves all year long, especially when temperatures plummet in this part of the UK.

Investing in a nest box or two could also be invaluable for birds that are struggling to find places to shelter in winter and raise their young in spring.