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Birds: Rural Areas

Question for Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

UIN 7254, tabled on 15 July 2015

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, what assessment her Department has made of trends in the number of small songbirds in rural areas; and if she will make a statement.

Answered on

21 July 2015

Songbird data extracted from published Defra wild bird indicators provide an index of change for farmland, woodland and wetland songbirds. These groups have shown a decline in relative abundance over time however, these declines need to be interpreted carefully because data before 1995 is less reliable.

For farmland and wetland songbirds the index shows a substantial decline between the 1970s and the early 1990s. However, since then there has been little or no overall change (although some individual species have continued to decline). For woodland songbirds the index shows a longer period of decline although there has been little overall change in recent years.

A study published in 2012[1] described the first evidence of landscape scale benefits of Environmental Stewardship for farmland birds. The results showed strong correlative evidence for positive effects of management for a number of seed-eating species such as the linnet, reed bunting and yellowhammer.

[1] Baker, D. J., Freeman, S. N., Grice, P. V. and Siriwardena, G. M. (2012), Landscape-scale responses of birds to agri-environment management: a test of the English Environmental Stewardship scheme. Journal of Applied Ecology, 49, 871-882