Finches up and down in Northern Ireland

26 Apr 2018 | No. 2018-11

The latest Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) report shows mixed fortunes for finches in Northern Ireland.
With its bright, red breast and contrasting black cap, the male Bullfinch is a striking bird, and now more people in Northern Ireland can enjoy seeing this attractive finch. During the last 10 years the breeding population in Northern Ireland has increased by 29%.

Conversely, the once widespread Greenfinch has seen its population fall by 80% since 2006. The reason behind this decline is thought to be disease related. In 2005 Greenfinches contracted Trichomonosis, a parasite that leads to their death, and this has caused a widespread decline in numbers.

The BBS is a fantastic example of a citizen science project. Coverage of randomly-selected squares in Northern Ireland is at its highest level since 2007, though there are still squares available for skilled volunteers, able to identify bird species by sight and sound, to get involved.

Sarah Harris, BBS Organiser at the British Trust for Ornithology, said, “Thanks to the wonderful volunteers who collect BBS data for the BTO in Northern Ireland, we have a very clear picture of the fortunes of these two finches, and thirty five other species reported here too. This level of monitoring allows us to produce the all important breeding bird trends and keep an eye on Northern Ireland’s birds.”

Claire Barnett, Senior Conservation Team Lead at RSPB NI thanked existing volunteers and encouraged others to join the citizen science project saying, "Getting involved in the Breeding Bird Survey, not only gives volunteers the opportunity to fine tune their bird ID skills, but also enables people to access parts of the countryside where they may not have explored before. The data collected is invaluable and allows us to direct our conservation work to where it is needed the most."
The BBS is a partnership between the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and reports annually on how Britain’s breeding birds are faring.

Contact Details

Sarah Harris
(Breeding Bird Survey Organiser, BTO)
Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: sarah.harris [at] (subject: Finches%20up%20and%20down%20in%20Northern%20Ireland)
Mike Toms
(BTO Head of Communications)
Office: 01842 750050
(Mon-Thurs 9am to 5.30pm) (Fri 9am to 5pm)
Email: press [at] (subject: Finches%20up%20and%20down%20in%20Northern%20Ireland)

Shane Wolsey
(Oversees the BBS for the BTO in Northern Ireland)
Home: 02891 467 947
Email: shane.wolsey [at] (subject: Finches%20up%20and%20down%20in%20Northern%20Ireland)

Images are available for use alongside this News Release. Please contactimages [at] quoting reference April 2018-11
The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews. Please contact us to book an interview Office: 01842 750050

Notes for Editors

Population trends for 37 bird species in Northern Ireland have been calculated in the latest BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) annual report. BBS is the main scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK’s common breeding birds.

In 2017, 128 BBS squares were covered in Northern Ireland by volunteers. We are grateful to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency who fundedprofessional fieldworkers to cover 52 squares in Northern Ireland and, along with the BTO, funded training courses with the aim of increasing coverage in Northern Ireland.

The latest report can be found here

The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) Partnership: The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey is a partnership jointly funded by the BTO, RSPB and JNCC, with fieldwork conducted by volunteers.

The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a UK-wide project aimed at keeping track of changes in the breeding populations of widespread bird species. The BBS involves around 2,800 participants who survey more than 3,900 sites across the UK, enabling us to monitor the population changes of 117 bird species. Knowing to what extent bird populations are increasing or decreasing is fundamental to bird conservation.

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.

The BTO is the UK's leading bird research organisation. Up to 60,000 birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of 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 project work. The BTO's investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.

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