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December 5, 2018

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December 5, 2018

Successes and Failures of British Birds

December 5, 2018

Recently the population of our much loved British birds have undergone a review by the British Trust of Ornithology (BTO). The latest BirdTrends report; which spanned the full length of the UK, looked at various habitats in wetlands, farmlands and waterways including marine and costal areas, comparing the health of 26 bird species between the 1970s to the present day. The report detected a dramatic decline in well-known bird species which are often seen as key indicators to the state of the natural world and are positioned at the heart of the food chain.

The failures of the last 48 years have shown shocking declines in numbers. These are surprisingly familiar garden birds such as the House Sparrow, Lesser Redpoll and the Mistle Thrush. However sadly the most worrying decline is of the Greenfinch, historically a regular garden visitor now classed as ‘red-listed' meaning 'endangered'.

One of the main causes to this decline is the severe outbreak of avian trichomonosis, a disease that affects the upper digestive tract, which first emerged in British finches during 2005. Before this outbreak numbers of finches were very stable. This goes to show the importance of bird feeder hygiene and the impact we have beyond our backyard.

Successful species such as the Great Spotted Woodpeckers, Nuthatches, Long-tailed Tits and Goldfinches, are showing positive growth in numbers. Food for thought; is that the majority of bird species showing population growth are ones that rely heavily on the human intervention of bird feeding. This is either an sign that these species are more adaptable in finding new food sources located in bird feeders or the range of food on offer is more suitable.

Birds have a large part to play in a garden ecosystems. By adding bird boxes and feeding your birds all year round you can make sure that their numbers thrive. Locate your bird box at a high sheltered area of your garden away from predators and direct sunlight. During winter months and the breeding season, provide protein-rich food, such as fat balls, dried mealworms and seeds mixes.

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  1. Try to remember that natural predators are not pests, they are in fact indicators of a fairly good eco-system, this is basic ecology. It may be upsetting to see smaller birds being eaten by bigger ones, but it’s a healthy sign. No predator that wasn’t already native to an area does not destroy the balance of species, it is self-sustaining. It is people that have had the most devastating and irreversible effect on natural systems and species. You are lucky you’re living in an area where the eco-system can support so many top level bird predators. Here in the city it’s the corvids and cats that do most of the killing of smaller birds.

  2. If you want to see house sparrows come to the west of Scotland. They seem to be flourishing here.

  3. I haven’t seen Chaffinches for a long time.Nuthatches thrive where I am in East Sussex,Long tailed Tits have started to be a frequent visitor this year.

  4. Yes, I too am worried about the greenfinch and this terrible disease. Is the problem that feeders are not regularly cleaned and also the feeding area kept clean and moved regularly. I clean my feeders every time and any food left thrown away. The feeding area is more difficult if it is on a lawn, as you cannot sterilise it, so it is important to keep moving the feeding area. I do not feed all year round, only until about June as I feel they must forage for their natural food, and this means they are feeding in lots of different areas. So, to all people who enjoy feeding the birds please take care, so we can eliminate this horrid disease.

  5. My garden has been inundated with Greenfinches for the first time in decades. I have to fill my sunflower seed feeder every day as they are constantly there eating. Even the Tits are being elbowed out. I live in Loughton, Essex very near Epping Forest.

  6. So important to feed the garden birds all year round. Just make sure you clean feeders regularly, and freshen bird baths daily.
    Remember, In nature, there are no punishments, or rewards, there are consequences.

  7. I have a problem with the huge increase of hawks/raptors. In the past they were exciting to see they are so common now that they are a pest. The main bird call we here on our farm is the buzzard and the number of piles of feathery remains is sad. We have a sparrow hawk to daily waits for his breakfast by our garden bird feeders. They are surrounded by rylock fence wire to give the little birds a chance. It is time the law regarding raptors wad changed.
    My other grouse is we had many species of groung nesting birds until the law was made that Badgers should be protected. If you live amongst these beasts it would be obvious that there are far too many. They damage gardens and turn are very unpleasant to live beside. We have no snipe, partridge or pheasants breading on our land as a result.
    Please can those who try to preserve our birds have a say.

  8. I have about five greenfinches every day this year at the seed feeders up from one only seen last year.I remember how common they were in the 70s.

  9. Those of us who provide feeders and nest boxes in our gardens have a responsibility to keep them clean, so reducing the spread of diseases like trichomonosis. It’s a pity then that feeders in particular are really really difficult to dismantle so making it almost impossible for them to be cleaned thoroughly. Manufacturers need to consider this.

  10. I feed the birds all year round,also two bird one for blue tits,great tits.any small birds really and one for the beautiful starlings who are always a delight to watch and continue to squabble .sadly know longer sparrows,thrushes which not that long ago were many,in my garden until my neighbors house was pulled down together with their many wonderful fruit trees ! !

  11. After a few years of not seeing any greenfinches, which before the outbreak of avian trichomonosis were one of the most prolific in the garden, they have just started to return and we have seen quite a few this year, though nowhere near as many as before. we are in Norfolk.

  12. Somerset just outside Wells fairly rural. . We haveve around 10 or more feeders in the garden and feed peanuts and sunflower hearts. We have visits all day long from long tailed tits, coal tits, blue tits and great tits. Also chaffinches bramlings, which feed on the ground on what is left by the flocks of 20 to 30 goldfinches we get. They are messy eaters. Nut hatches pop in and so do robing and wrens and even firecrests and goldcrests. Blackbirds and just more recently redwings feeding on the berries. Thrushes are in short supply. Jays love the nuts and take them from the feeder directly and so does the Greater spotted woodpecker. Green woodpeckers pop in as well and towards the end of the year best of all is to watch the green and black and white wagtails bathing in the waterfall in the pond and eating the flies above it. Seen the occasional greenfinch as well. Kytes, buzzards and sparrowhawks overhead with the occasional kestrel on the lookout for the goldfinches.