Sunday, 3 June 2012

Harsh winters blamed for bird population decline

The number of countryside bird species in decline has shown an alarming rise, with 13 species now under threat as against eight in the last survey.
Birdwatch Ireland’s annual Countryside Bird Survey for 1998-2010, which monitors breeding bird populations, reveals the most significant declines were in populations of swift, grey wagtail, kestrel, and greenfinch.

For 15 species, including the stonechat, long-tailed tit and meadow pipit, 2010 was the lowest year ever recorded.

While 17 of the more common species showed population increases, this is a reduction on previous years: In 2009, 22 species were increasing.

There have been consistent overall declines for many bird species since the survey began. However, 2010 was an especially tough year for bird populations, due to two unusually cold snaps. The winter of 2009/2010 was the coldest recorded since 1963. The following winter, 2010/2011, was the coldest since records began.

Wren, robin, blackbird and chaffinch remain the most widespread species, with rook being by far the most numerous species recorded. Starling, woodpigeon, and jackdaw were also numerous.

The blackcap showed what the report describes as a "remarkable" increase of 500% since reporting began. In contrast, grey wagtail, kestrel, and sparrowhawk were the least numerous species recorded.

The yellowhammer "is considered to be inadequately monitored" according to the report, despite it being on the red list of birds at conservation risk. In all, there are 19 species listed on the red list of the birds of conservation concern in Ireland.

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