Woodland birds decline by half

Numbers of four species of woodland birds have declined by over half since 1994, a new survey has revealed.

The breeding bird survey from the RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) showed that woodland birds have suffered the biggest declines of all species.

The Wood Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Pied Flycatcher and Willow Tit suffered the most dramatic declines since the start of the survey 14 years ago.

Willow Tit numbers have fallen by 77 per cent; Spotted Flycatcher by 59 per cent; Wood Warbler by 57 per cent; and Pied Flycatcher by 54 per cent.

Conservationists say the declines are not due to loss of habitat but to the changing tree composition and age structure of the UK's woods.

Deer have increased in numbers - browsing away the forest under-story on which the birds depend - and forest management practices are changing the structure of woodlands.

Positive findings from the survey including numbers of the Stonechat increasing by 278 per cent; the Nuthatch by 71 per cent; and the Buzzard by 56 per cent.

The 2007-11 Bird Atlas, organised by BTO, will track the geographical spread of these species, as BBS monitors changes in numbers, to see if the spread is due to climate change.

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