BIRDSONG may soon be lost for ever from the sound of the countryside, a shock report revealed last night.
Populations of farmland birds have plummeted to their lowest levels for over 40 years and breeding pairs are 52 per cent fewer than in 1966.
The crisis, which particularly affects species such as skylarks, grey partridges and lapwings, is likely to get worse, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds warned.
The decline, charted by the Department for the Environment, has occurred despite grants for farmers to work the land in a more environmentally friendly manner.
The figures do not include the removal earlier this year of fields set aside and left to run wild, which had provided safe havens for many birds.
Between 1970 and 2006 the number of corn buntings declined by 89 per cent and turtle doves by 86 per cent.
RSPB agricultural policy officer Gareth Morgan said:
“The further drop in the numbers of some farmland birds is deeply troubling.
“This is a credit crunch for birds. We know that the general intensification of farming, driven by the Common Agricultural Policy, has accounted for the majority of the decline in farmland birds, but with good conservation support now available for farmers this year’s results are still dismaying.” His colleague, Grahame Madge, said the decline was already changing the sound of rural spring when birds such as skylarks and turtle doves sing to attract mates. “The orchestra is definitely getting quieter.
In some areas the variety of birds is nowhere near as good as it was in 1970.” The National Farmers’ Union vice-president, Paul Temple, said last night that it was “much too simplistic” to lay the blame for decreasing bird numbers at the door of farmland management.
He added: “Other elements, such as climate change, encroaching urbanisation and increased traffic, will all be contributory factors, ”
By John Ingham Environment Editor
Thanks to the Daily Express