Concern for UK birdlife

Andy Hay (
Andy Hay (

A report published today (19th) raises fears for UK birds as it findings state that since 1966 the UK has been losing individual birds at a rate of one million every year.

The statistics are contained in the State of UK’s Birds 2012. Published by a coalition of conservation organisations, it charts the ups and downs of the nation’s bird populations over recent decades.

This year’s report has raised fresh concerns for the fate of two wintering seaducks, whose range in winter is strongly associated with Scotland, the velvet scoter and the long tailed duck.

Both have suffered massive declines in the Baltic Sea, which have been mirrored in Scotland, where the bulk of the UK population are found.

Numbers have fallen so sharply (65% and 60% respectively since the first Baltic Sea survey in 1992) that both species are now considered threatened with extinction globally,

Another suite of species to have suffered particularly significant declines are seabirds, of which Scotland holds 45% of Europe’s breeding population.

Since 1986, when a national seabird-monitoring programme began, 10 of the 18 monitored seabird species have suffered long-term declines, with populations of Arctic skua and roseate tern declining by around three quarters (72% and 75% respectively) during that period. As such, both species are red-listed as of high conservation concern, with the roseate tern edging close to extinction in Scotland.

Similarly, kittiwake numbers have more than halved (55%) over the same period , while other once abundant gull species, such as the herring gull and great black-backed gull, have declined by 24% and 35% respectively.

Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland said: “It is shocking and disappointing to think that over the past half century the UK has lost one in five of its individual birds, many of which are of such importance to Scotland.

“There have been many changes across the UK that have affected birds, including shifts in land-use, habitat loss, climate change, the rise in some non-native species and a lack of food. It is therefore vital that, where possible, we try to support declining species, be it by reducing emissions, making more space for wildlife on our farmland, undertaking further research to understand the causes of decline or, in the case of seabirds and threatened wintering species building resilience into populations through the designation and positive management of marine protected areas.”