Help saving the declining bird species in the UK

The most notable decline comes from the number of farmland birds, which have halved between 1977 and 1993. There has been a further decline of 11% since 2003.

 Annual statistics from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) highlights the worrying decline in wild bird populations in the UK. The total decline has been tallied to the figure of 13.7% since 1977, with numbers of particular species falling by as much as two thirds.


Statistics from:


Frightening statistics for turtle doves, grey partridges, starlings and house sparrows

Another saddening statistic is, that the highly symbolic partridge and turtle dove is virtually disappearing from the British countryside. Once owning a widespread population in the South of Britain, the grey partridge has witnessed a 30% decline in the past five years. The estimated population stands at 43,000 pairs. In a similar way, it is estimated that the population of turtle doves has fallen by 60% to an estimated 14,000 pairs.

Mark Eaton, from the RSPB warns that if the declining number of turtle doves continues, there is a real chance that we could be down to fewer than 1000 pairs of turtle doves within 10 years, with extinction being a very real possibility.

When viewing figures as a whole, the common native bird population has changed very little in the past 40 years. However this figure is quite deceptive and can mask the problem that we face with certain species of birds. Notably, the number of house sparrows has dropped by 60 per cent and the number of starlings has fallen by 75 per cent in the last years. Richard Bashford of the RSPB suggests that in both cases, baby birds are born but not fledging, the reason may being a lack of food. In this alarming report the RSPB has also found that cockney sparrows have almost vanished from London, and continue to disappear from other major cities such as Bristol, Edinburgh and Dublin.

It is believed that the decline in the number sparrows is caused by two major trends. Firstly, the absence of a major food source caused by changes in agricultural practices involving the use of herbicides, and secondly particularly the loss of winter stubbles and improved hygiene measures surrounding grain stores. House sparrows have been largely hit by the modern trend in garden design which favors paving the front garden and replacing grass with decking, patio, or gravel and bark. The reduction in green space in cities and suburban areas subsequently affects the sparrow's chief source of food, in worms and insects which reside in greenery. 

There are a number of species of garden birds that are currently under threat. Here is what you can do to help them:

  • Refrain from pruning and tidying sections of your garden. Overgrown patches of grassland can help to encourage more insects for various birds such as sparrows to feed upon. Overgrown bushes and shrubbery can also house nesting blackbirds.
  • STOP using pesticides on your lawn. Many pesticides will kill off the insect population which provides an important source of foods for many species of garden birds.


A few tips for specific bird species

House sparrow: will primarily eat worms, but will also eat sunflower seeds and seed mixtures. Choose aseed feeder that can hold mixed seeds and sunflower seeds. Have your bird boxes andbird houses ready for the breeding period in spring.

Starlings: will eat peanuts, fat balls (in winter) and seed mixtures. Although their primary diet consists of rowan berries, they will eat kitchen scraps as well.

Robins: are particularly fond of peanuts, but you must select crushed peanuts and apeanut feeder designed to hold smaller seeds and nuts. Robins will also nest in bird boxes if they have a large opening.

Song thrushes: generally feast on softer foods such as berries, slugs, snails and caterpillars. However, raisins, sultanas, currants and other dried fruits make a suitable meal and are easy to obtain.

Blackbirds: nest in ivy and shrubbery. If you are kind enough to leave your garden bushes un-pruned, then this can help to attract black birds. Being a larger bird, a blackbirds' diet can range from earthworms and berries, to cheese (hard cheese) and peanuts.







Written by Marion Cointre European Ecommerce Content Specialist at Wild Bird Feeders. – Your Ultimate Bird Resource. We are Perky Pet®, Birdscapes®, Garden Song® and Avant Garden® – four strong brands recognised as world leaders in the wild bird feeding category! We offer the broadest and deepest selection of quality bird feeding products at competitive prices.