Friday, 15 August 2008

'State of the UK's Birds Report' Reveals Climate Change Effects on Bird Species

The annual 'State of the UK's Birds' report, produced by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the RSPB, and the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust, along with the statutory conservation agencies for the four UK countries (Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England, Northern Ireland Environment Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage) reveals that climate change is having major impacts on the breeding success and timing of breeding of many well-known species of bird.

Records show that the chaffinch, blue and great tits, robins and swallows all, on average, lay their eggs a year earlier than in the 1960s; a phenomenon thought to be linked to rising temperatures as a result of climate change. Data from the BTO also reveals that song thrushes rear fewer young in drier summers, thought to be due to difficulties in foraging for earthworms in harder soil. As drier summers are projected to increase in the UK as the globe warms, this has negative implications for the survival of this species.

The report also reveals a worrying decline in wading birds since the 1990s. Fewer purple sandpiper, ringed plover and dunlin have been recorded visiting Britain's shores in recent years. The Wildfowl and Wetland Trust suggest that these birds could be over-wintering elsewhere in Europe, where conditions are now more favourable, although admit that data is lacking on the balance between 'real' declines in numbers and redistribution: "It is vital that we learn more about the extent and consequences of redistribution in order to ensure that these species are effectively conserved."

Commenting on these and other species' declines, Dr Tom Tew, Chief Scientist at Natural England said: "The consistent decline in specialist bird species...indicates that the variety and richness of our countryside is being lost. We urgently need to reverse the loss and fragmentation of important habitats is our wildlife is to stand any chance of adapting to climate change."

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