In 2014 the numbers of farmland birds (as measured by overall trends in 19 species – see below) were at the second lowest level of the last 45 years (since, almost, records began). Guess what? The lowest level was in 2013! This is not a record of which any politician can be proud.
The farmland bird index was adopted as an indicator of environmental sustainability by the previous Labour government and quietly shelved by the coalition government in 2010.
The aggregate population levels of farmland birds are less than half of their 1970 level – and have been for years and years. The decline continues, though less rapidly than in the 1970s, with an 11% decline in the last five years covered by this update. Things are bad, and continue to get worse, despite all governments promising to make it better and despite hundreds of millions of pounds being given to farmers to improve the farmed environment every single year.
Defra ‘released’ the figures on the day that IUCN released the global red list. A good day to bury bad news perhaps? They are very difficult to track down on the odious Gov.uk site and I can find no sign of Natural England or Defra publicising this inconvenient news. Liz Truss did not appear to have said anything about the fact that farmland birds have continued to decline throughout the period of a Conservative Secretary of State at Defra.
Although actually, it’s not news. This is the normal situation in UK farmland – it keeps getting worse for wildlife.
Defra is not doing its job properly.
The 19 species on the farmland bird index are: Grey Partridge, Kestrel, Lapwing, Wood Pigeon, Stock Dove, Turtle Dove, Jackdaw, Rook, Skylark, Starling, Yellow Wagtail, Whitethroat, Linnet, Greenfinch, Goldfinch. Yellowhammer, Reed Bunting, Corn Bunting, Tree Sparrow.