Farmland bird numbers continue to fall as Government mulls countryside spending
October 2013: The latest official figures on farmland birds reveal that they are continuing to decline. The annual Wild Bird Indicator statistics have been released ahead of a decision that the Secretary of State for the Environment, Owen Paterson, is due to make about spending on the English countryside.
The Farmland Bird Index, which covers 19 species reliant on the farmed countryside, has seen a five-year decline of eight percent. However looking back over the last 40 years the decline in farmland birds is a staggering 50 percent. The fastest declining species since 1970 include turtle doves (down 95 percent), corn buntings (down 90 percent) and lapwings (down 63 percent). But it is not all bad news as some species numbers have increased since 1970, including jackdaws who have seen a 140 percent increase in numbers and a 134 percent increase for woodpigeons.
Martin Harper, RSPB Conservation Director, said: “The trend for farmland birds continues to go downwards. The decline has slowed, and wildlife friendly farmers who put conservation measures in place on their land must be congratulated for their hard work. But if we are all going to work together to bring wildlife back to our countryside then the funding must be there for these measures to continue.
“Before the end of the year, Owen Paterson will need to decide how much funding he can allocate to wildlife-friendly farmers, those farmers doing the most for wildlife. Without Owen Paterson’s help farmland wildlife will continue to struggle, along with those farmers trying to help. These figures tell us that the volume of birdsong – the soundtrack to our summer - in our farmed countryside has halved in my lifetime. Mr Paterson has the power to turn up the volume!”