Azara Blog: Wild farmland birds seemingly in decline

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Date published: 2007/10/18

The BBC says:

The number of wild farmland bird species breeding in England is at the lowest level since records began, a key government wildlife "indicator" shows.

The RSPB called the UK government's Wild Bird Populations 2006 indicator "extremely depressing".

The data showed that these species had declined by about 60% since 1970.

The charity warned that cuts in "set-aside" payments, which take land out of food production, could hit bird numbers even harder in the future.
Defra suggested that the decline of species included in the index was a result of changes to agricultural processes, "including the loss of mixed farming, the switch to autumn sowing of cereals... and the loss of field margins and hedges".
Other bird populations covered by the indicator are: woodland birds, which have seen a 20% decline since 1970; and seabird species, which have risen by 30% over the same period.

The world does not stand still. Some species do better over time and some do worse. It is not clear the government should be getting hysterical over farmland birds in particular. Of course one way to reverse the decline would be to make the agricultural system provide a more sympathetic environment. But that comes at a cost. Of course the RSPB is happy to have the country pay the cost, but it's not clear the average citizen of Britain would be (in practise, not just in opinion polls).

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