Suffolk/Essex: Population of farmland birds is “plummeting”, says RSPB

Yellow Wagtail Yellow Wagtail

Monday, December 9, 2013
10:00 AM

The population of birds which were once common in Suffolk, Essex and Norfolk is plummeting, according to a report by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

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The report found that the numbers of grey partridge and turtle dove in the UK have halved since 1995.

The Eastern region is a stronghold for farmland bird species such as the grey partridge and turtle dove, as well as the corn bunting.

The vast majority of the breeding population of turtle doves are found in Suffolk, Norfolk, the Essex coast and the Cambridgeshire Fens.

The Fens, Broads and Essex coast are also the main domain of the unique British race of yellow wagtail – a bright yellow-headed version – whose populations have declined by 45% in the same period.

A senior officer in the RSPB in East Anglia said the figures were “depressing” and indicative of wider environmental damage.

“Yet again we hear of depressing statistics for once common and widespread birds emblematic of our countryside,” said Simon Tonkin, senior conservation officer for RSPB in the Eastern Region.

“However there is hope, as wildlife friendly farmers taking action at the right scale and in the right place does make a difference. If we can get government policies to ensure that other farmers can join this growing minority then we could see a solution to disastrous dwindling populations of turtle dove, corn bunting and grey partridge across the Eastern Region.

“These species are like miners’ canaries; their steadily dropping numbers are alerting us to wider dangers for our environment. If we do not care for our wildlife, farming will suffer and this green and pleasant land will be far less pleasant to live, work and play amongst.”

Among the findings of the report were:

• Turtle dove, a farmland bird with a 95 per cent decline in numbers since 1995 and a 51 per cent decline in range over the last 40 years;

• Yellow wagtail, a bird of farmland and wetland which has endured a 45 per cent decline in numbers since 1995. The latest bird atlas reveals that the yellow wagtail’s range has contracted by 32 per cent over the last 40 years;

• Grey partridge, a farmland bird whose population has declined by 53 per cent since 1995. The latest bird atlas reveals that the grey partridge’s range has reduced by 40 per cent over the last 40 years;

• Corn bunting, a farmland bird whose population has declined by 34 per cent since 1995. The latest bird atlas shows that the corn bunting’s distribution has contracted by 56 per cent over the last 40 years; and the species is now extinct in Ireland.

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