Collared Doves thriving in Northern Ireland

01 Jul 2013 | No. 2013-27

Collared Doves first bred in the UK in 1955, and have since dramatically spread across all of Britain and Ireland. While numbers have stabilised or are starting to decline in other parts the UK, this species has increased by 113% in Northern Ireland since the mid-1990s, according to the latest results from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS).

Collared Dove has increased by 113% in Northern
Ireland since the mid-1990s

BBS population trends are published annually for 33 species across Northern Ireland, using counts made by volunteer birdwatchers. The latest figures show that 2012 was a bad year for migrants in Northern Ireland, including Swallow, House Martin, Chiffchaff and Willow Warbler, all of which declined between 2011 and 2012, perhaps due to a late spring and poor weather during the migration season.

Kate Risely, BBS organiser at the British Trust for Ornithology, said “These figures tell us exactly what is happening to the populations of many birds, and put into a broader context the changes that people are seeing in their back gardens or in the wider countryside, such as the increase in Collared Doves or the lack of Swallows in 2012. We owe this information to dedicated volunteer birdwatchers, who have carried out BBS surveys in Northern Ireland since 1994."

Ian Enlander, ornithologist at the Northern Ireland Environment Agency, added “The Breeding Bird Survey provides a range of organisations in Northern Ireland with the data needed to understand changes in populations of many of our common bird species. It is the starting point for informing decisions about management of our countryside, to try and make it a more ‘bird friendly’ place. The role of volunteers is critical in these surveys and Northern Ireland Environment Agency would encourage anyone interested in contributing to this important work to contact BTO for details of how they can become involved.”

James Robinson, Director of the RSPB in Northern Ireland, added “Across the UK, nature is in trouble, and it is worrying to see declines in some of our favourite migrant birds like Swallows. Birds are indicators of the health of our countryside and the results of the Breeding Bird Survey help us to respond to the many challenges birds and other wildlife are facing. The small army of volunteers who take part in the BBS and other wildlife surveys do an amazing job, giving us the information we need to give nature a home here in Northern Ireland.”

Notes for Editors

  1. For a PDF of the full report visit
  2. The Breeding Bird Survey is run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and is jointly funded by BTO, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) (on behalf of the statutory nature conservation bodies: Natural England, Natural Resources Wales and Scottish Natural Heritage and the Department of the Environment Northern Ireland), and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).
  3. The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a national project aimed at keeping track of changes in the breeding populations of widespread bird species in the UK. The BBS involves around 2,500 participants who survey more than 3,200 sites across the UK, enabling us to monitor the population changes of over 100 bird species. Knowing to what extent bird populations are increasing or decreasing is fundamental to bird conservation.
  4. The information provided by the BBS provides a cornerstone for conservation action for birds in the UK.
  5. This important survey is carried out by volunteer birdwatchers throughout the UK, who receive no financial reward or expenses for their efforts. We are indebted to them for their tremendous support.
  6. The BTO is the UK's leading bird research charity. A growing membership and up to 60,000 volunteer birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys, collecting information that underpins conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of surveys and projects. The BTO's work is funded by BTO supporters, government, trusts, industry and conservation organisations.

Contact Details

Kate Risely
(Breeding Bird Survey Organiser)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: kate.risely [at]

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Mobile: 07585 440910 (anytime)
Email: press [at]

Shane Wolsey
(Oversees the BBS for the BTO in Northern Ireland)

Home: 02891 467947
Email: shane.wolsey [at]

Amy Ryan
(RSPB Northern Ireland)

Office: 02890 491547
Email: amy.ryan [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release.
Please contact images [at] quoting reference 2013-27

The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews.
Please contact us to book an interview
Office: 01842 750050

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