November has seen the release of the 2015 edition of The State of the UK’s Birds report. A collaborative effort from the British Trust for Ornithology, RSPB and Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust, the document provides an in-depth overview of bird populations in the country and is perhaps the most important document in the birding community.
So, what are the standout findings from the report that you need to know about? We take a look below.
The good news
As always with this report, the results are a combination of the good and the bad, reflecting the varying fortunes of different species across the country. We'll start with the positives.
Two species that have seen a big increase in their populations are the Blackcap, which is up by 289 per cent since 1970, and the Goldfinch, numbers of which have grown by 111 per cent since 1995.
What's behind this growth? It might be you! The increase in both species' populations are thought to be partly down to an increase in people putting out bird food in their gardens. It's believed that the introduction of sunflower hearts and nyjer seed into bird feeders could have played a part in boosting Goldfinch numbers, while an increase in bird food is seen as a key factor in attracting Blackcaps to spend the winter in the UK or even stay all year round. So, if you regularly put food out for birds, you might be playing a part in boosting these species' numbers.
Other positive news includes a massive 357 per cent rise in Great Spotted Woodpecker numbers since 1970, while Nuthatchs are up by 253 per cent and extending their range as far north as central Scotland.
There are signs of improvement for two struggling species - the House and Tree Sparrow. The former has seen its population grow by three per cent since 1995, following a 65 per cent drop since 1970. For the Tree Sparrow, there has been a 122 per cent rise since 1995, going someway to recover from a 90 per cent drop since 1970. However, whether this growth proves sustainable remains to be seen.
Contrasting fortunes: Starlings and a Greater Spotted Woodpecker share a bird feeder
Unfortunately, the report also provided some worrying statistics. Starling numbers have halved since 1995 and are down 81 per cent since 1970. Two familiar species - the Song and Mistle Thrush - are also faring badly, with their populations down by 56 and 59 per cent over the past 45 years respectively. A loss of suitable feeding grounds is widely regarded as a factor in each of these species' decline. You can give them a small helping hand by leaving out suitable food. Starlings and both thrush species will readily eat meal worms, while they may also feed on fat balls and suet.
Other birds with falling populations include the Willow Tit and Marsh Tit, with declines of 94 and 71 per cent recorded since 1970 respectively. Spotted Flycatcher numbers have dropped by 87 per cent in the same period, and now appear to be completely absent from many areas. Two of our birds of prey have seen a population decrease too, with Kestrel and Sparrowhawk numbers down 40 and 15 per cent since 1995 respectively.
You can do your bit to help Britain's birds by making your garden as bird-friendly as possible, whether it's putting out food or providing them with a place to shelter and raise their young.