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Will our children be able to experience the wildlife our grand-parents enjoyed?

Last modified: 20 January 2011

Grey partridge in grassland

For every ten grey partridges we had in 1970, we only have one today

A Defra report, issued today, has highlighted that around half of our farmland birds have been lost in England and the UK since 1970, reaching their lowest recorded levels.

Dr Mark Avery is the RSPB’s Conservation Director. Commenting on the declines, he said: “It is staggering that farmland birds, such as the turtle dove and lapwing, have reached such a low ebb. But the good news is that we know how to turn around these declines; everyone now needs to play their part and get on with the job.”

A countryside richer in birds is within our grasp

The RSPB believes that a secure future for farmland wildlife rests with farmers being financially rewarded for managing land in an environmentally-friendly way, through so-called agri-environment schemes. Key among these schemes is the Entry Level Scheme (ELS) which covers 70 per cent of England’s farmland. Defra are currently reviewing this scheme.

Dr Mark Avery continued: “DEFRA only has to tweak ELS a little to ensure a recovery in farmland birds such as skylarks and corn buntings. Our children could then hear as much birdsong as did their grandparents. A countryside richer in birds is within our grasp.”

Today’s report shows that woodland birds in England and the UK have declined by almost a quarter.

The decline of some farmland birds has been linked to decades of habitat change resulting in a lack of suitable nesting sites and a shortage of food in spring or winter. The causes driving the decline of woodland birds are less clear, but ongoing research will, hopefully, reveal the reasons.

The report includes population trends for wild birds up to 2009, for farmland birds; woodland birds; water and wetland birds; seabirds; and wintering waterbirds for England and the UK.

To access the Defra statistical report report please click here.

How you can help

At Hope Farm, the RSPB is developing farming techniques that will benefit wildlife