Woodpecker worries in Wales

No.:  2013-28
July 2013

Despite doing well in other parts of the UK, Green Woodpeckers numbers fell by around 20% in Wales between 2011 and 2012, according to the latest figures from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS). This is in sharp contrast with the fortunes of the closely-related Great Spotted Woodpeckers, which have increased in Wales by nearly 200% since the start of the survey in 1994.

Green Woodpecker by Jill Pakenham/BTO

Green Woodpeckers are becoming a scarce sight
in parts of Wales

BBS population trends are published annually for 53 species in Wales, using counts made by volunteer birdwatchers. One of the biggest changes that surveyors have seen since the start of the survey is in numbers of Starlings, which have declined in Wales by 70% since 1995, and reached a new low in 2012. However, other birds have done well: 2012 was a great year for Long-tailed Tits, which increased by 132% in Wales between 2011 and 2012.

Kate Risely, BBS organiser at the British Trust for Ornithology, said “Everyone enjoys seeing colourful, noisy woodpeckers, and more people in Wales are encountering the eye-catching Great Spotted Woodpecker in the countryside and on their bird feeders. However, Green Woodpeckers, which are doing well across other parts of the UK, are becoming a scarce sight in parts of Wales. The decline in Starling numbers in Wales is also worrying, since longer-term declines meant that this species had already been red-listed.”

Dr Sian Whitehead, Terrestrial and Freshwater Ornithologist at Natural Resources Wales, added “The declines in Starlings, Curlews and Yellowhammers are of great concern to everyone involved in Welsh nature conservation. These BBS figures highlight the important contribution made by volunteers to bird recording and conservation in Wales, as we wouldn’t be able to understand the magnitude and scale of these changes without the many hours of surveying carried out by dedicated and enthusiastic volunteer birdwatchers.”

Dr Séan Christian, Head of Conservation at RSPB Cymru, said “Long-tailed Tits were hit hard by our recent cold winters and it’s great to see these charming birds bounce back. However, the long and continued decline in breeding Starlings and other farmland birds has to be urgently addressed. We need the Welsh Government to review Glastir, its latest agri-environment scheme, to deliver income for farmers and targeted conservation which will lead to our countryside teeming with wildlife again. With sufficient determination, resources and public support, we can turn the fortunes of our Welsh wildlife around.”

Notes for Editors

  1. For a PDF of the full report visit www.bto.org/bbs-report-12
  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. www.bto.org

Contact Details

Kate Risely
(Breeding Bird Survey Organiser)

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

Paul Stancliffe
(BTO Media Manager)

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

Kelvin Jones
(BTO Wales)

Office: 01248 383285
Mobile: 07979 713282
Email:kelvin.jones [at] bto.org

Daniel Jenkins-Jones
(Head of Public Affairs, RSPB Wales)

Office: 02920 353011
Mobile: 07828 093613
Email: daniel.jenkins-jones [at] rspb.org.uk

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