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Ten-year trends and evidence of species recovery

If the status of species that have shown long-term declines were now improving, we would expect to find trends to be more positive in recent years than in the earlier part of the time series. To examine this, we list in Table B1 the best change estimates over the most recent ten-year period for which we have data (2006–16 in all but three cases), for all of the declining species listed in Tables A1–A3 (previous section). For Lesser Spotted Woodpecker, Woodcock and Shelduck, the ten-year period for which data are tabulated is 1989–99.

Table B1 also includes four further species that are listed red or amber in BoCC4 because of recent breeding decline, and for which we can report ten-year trends, but which lacked annual monitoring data before 1994. These are Whinchat, Grasshopper Warbler and Wood Warbler (all red listed), and Swift (amber listed). 

Table B1 Ten-year trends for species that have shown long-term declines

Species Period
(yrs)
Source Change
(%)
Lower
limit
Upper
limit
Alert Comment
Turtle Dove 10 CBC/BBS UK -84 -90 -79 >50  
Greenfinch 10 CBC/BBS UK -65 -66 -63 >50  
Lesser Spotted Woodpecker 10 CBC to 1999 -51 -75 -22 >50 Small sample
Willow Tit 10 CBC/BBS UK -48 -62 -32 >25  
Little Owl 10 CBC/BBS UK -46 -54 -34 >25  
Tufted Duck 10 WBS/WBBS waterways -42 -56 -26 >25  
Woodcock 10 CBC to 1999 -40 -62 -11 >25 Small sample
Swift 10 BBS UK -39 -45 -34 >25  
Cuckoo 10 CBC/BBS England -37 -43 -32 >25  
Marsh Tit 10 CBC/BBS UK -37 -46 -27 >25  
Starling 10 CBC/BBS England -37 -41 -34 >25  
Grey Partridge 10 CBC/BBS UK -36 -43 -27 >25  
Redshank 10 WBS/WBBS waterways -35 -55 -11 >25  
Lapwing 10 CBC/BBS UK -33 -40 -25 >25  
House Martin 10 CBC/BBS England -31 -36 -26 >25  
Nightingale 10 CBC/BBS England -28 -46 0    
Little Grebe 10 WBS/WBBS waterways -24 -39 4   Small sample
Kestrel 10 CBC/BBS England -23 -27 -16    
Crossbill 10 BBS UK -21 -41 8    
Common Sandpiper 10 WBS/WBBS waterways -20 -30 -5    
Whinchat 10 BBS UK -20 -38 1    
Mistle Thrush 10 CBC/BBS UK -19 -24 -14    
Tree Pipit 10 CBC/BBS England -19 -39 2    
Wood Warbler 10 BBS UK -18 -43 15    
Wheatear 10 BBS UK -15 -27 0    
Grey Wagtail 10 WBS/WBBS waterways -14 -25 -2    
Sedge Warbler 10 CBC/BBS UK -14 -23 -1    
Red-legged Partridge 10 CBC/BBS UK -13 -19 -7    
Willow Warbler 10 CBC/BBS England -12 -18 -5    
Grasshopper Warbler 10 BBS UK -11 -28 14    
Skylark 10 CBC/BBS England -11 -14 -8    
Curlew 10 CBC/BBS England -10 -16 -2    
Tawny Owl 10 CBC/BBS UK -10 -29 3    
Garden Warbler 10 CBC/BBS UK -9 -18 1    
Peregrine 10 BBS UK -8 -26 19    
Spotted Flycatcher 10 CBC/BBS UK -7 -23 14    
Yellowhammer 10 CBC/BBS UK -6 -10 -2    
Corn Bunting 10 CBC/BBS UK -5 -19 14    
House Sparrow 10 CBC/BBS England 0 -5 4    
Dunnock 10 CBC/BBS UK 2 -1 5    
Shelduck 10 CBC to 1999 3 -21 40    
Dipper 10 WBS/WBBS waterways 5 -7 18    
Meadow Pipit 10 CBC/BBS England 5 -3 12    
Song Thrush 10 CBC/BBS UK 6 4 10    
Yellow Wagtail 10 CBC/BBS UK 8 -4 24    
Reed Bunting 10 CBC/BBS UK 9 1 17    
Whitethroat 10 CBC/BBS UK 12 6 18    
Linnet 10 CBC/BBS England 19 12 25    
Snipe 10 WBS/WBBS waterways 20 -20 61    
Bullfinch 10 CBC/BBS UK 29 21 38    
Tree Sparrow 10 CBC/BBS England 35 15 57    
Lesser Redpoll 10 CBC/BBS England 52 5 113    

Species are listed in ascending order of population change. Thus the species with the steepest recent decline appear first. Towards the foot of the table are species that remain in long-term decline but have shown partial recovery of those losses during the recent ten-year period.

As indicated by their position at the top of Table B1, there is high confidence that the populations of Turtle Dove and Greenfinch have halved within just the last ten years, or even a shorter period. These are the only species in long-term decline that suffered a 50% fall during 2006–16 (but Lesser Spotted Woodpecker also met these criteria during the most recent ten-year period for which data are available). A further 12 species also raise alerts, having declined significantly by more than 25% (but less than 50%) in their most recent ten-year period. All these declines compound earlier losses for these species.

The ongoing declines of so many of the species listed in Table B1 raises serious conservation concern. A special case is Turtle Dove, for which the 10-year decline has remained at 80% or greater in each of the last eight BirdTrend report and shows no sign of slowing.

The 25% threshold, which is used to define decreases over the 25-year period that are worthy of amber listing, is equivalent to a change of 10.9% over ten years, assuming a constant rate of change. Thus a decrease of 11% or greater listed in Table B1 indicates that these species (31 in all, including non-significant declines for NightingaleLittle Grebe, WhinchatTree Pipit, Wood Warbler and Grasshopper Warbler) are on course for new or renewed red or amber listing for breeding population decline.

A smaller decrease, or an increase, indicates that the population decline may be easing off. Species that have declined in the longer term but with losses smaller than 11%, or with no significant population change, over the ten-year period are Tawny OwlGarden Warbler, Spotted FlycatcherYellowhammer, Corn Bunting, House Sparrow, Dunnock, ShelduckDipperMeadow PipitYellow Wagtail and Snipe.

Seven species at the foot of the table show significant gains in population over the last ten years. The strong increase in Song Thrush LinnetLesser Redpoll and Tree Sparrow numbers is very welcome but the upturns are coming from such a low level that numbers remain far below those of the mid 1970s, with the population trend graphs still showing little sign of clear recovery. Whitethroat numbers have increased steadily since the mid 1980s but again are still far below the level prior to their population crash in 1968/69. Bullfinch and Reed Bunting remain on the amber list, because their recent increases also represent only a small recovery from earlier losses.

 

This report should be cited as: Woodward, I.D., Massimino, D., Hammond, M.J., Harris, S.J., Leech, D.I., Noble, D.G., Walker, R.H., Barimore, C., Dadam, D., Eglington, S.M., Marchant, J.H., Sullivan, M.J.P., Baillie, S.R. & Robinson, R.A. (2018) BirdTrends 2018: trends in numbers, breeding success and survival for UK breeding birds. Research Report 708. BTO, Thetford. www.bto.org/birdtrends