We’re 44 Million Birds Down Since 1966

Sparrow image by RSPB, Nigel Blake

Sparrow image by RSPB, Nigel Blake

Despite the huge numbers of starlings around here at the moment, it seems that, since 1966, we’ve lost breeding birds from our countryside at an average rate of a nesting pair every minute.

These shocking statistics are contained in the State of the UK’s Birds 2012 report published today, charting the ups and downs of our bird populations over the last few decades.

The scientists producing the report estimate there are 166 million nesting birds in the UK, compared with 210 million nesting birds in 1966.

“It is shocking to think that we’ve lost one in five of the individual birds that we had in the 1960s”

The house sparrow has seen one of the greatest losses of any bird in the UK. Although since 2000 house sparrow numbers have started to increase, the UK still has 20 million fewer sparrows than it did in 1966. The current population is estimated at around 10 million.

Dr Mark Eaton is an RSPB scientist who worked on the report. Commenting on the figures, he said: “It is shocking to think that we’ve lost one in five of the individual birds that we had in the 1960s, especially when you think that the 44 million birds we have lost since 1966 is equivalent to the current adult human population of England and Wales.”

There have been many changes in the UK which have affected birds, most notably changes in the 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 a shortage of food in summer or winter. However, for some species, including the house sparrow, the precise reasons behind these declines aren’t fully understood.

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