- If you look forward to hearing the birds'
dawn chorus at this time of year, you had better listen up.
- In a chilling echo of Rachel Carson's
influential book The Silent Spring, ornithologists say fewer birds are
now singing across Britain than ever before.
- The culprit is intensive farming, encouraged
and rewarded by the European Union's common agricultural policy.
- And although modest reforms have been
agreed in outline, it will take a long time to reverse the decline in wildlife.
- The Royal Society for the Protection
of Birds says a comparison of today's countryside with what existed about
25 years ago shows that at least 27 million birds have simply vanished.
- Using data gathered by the British Trust
for Ornithology, the RSPB says breeding pairs of many familiar species
which live here the year round have suffered drastic declines.
- Of mainly farmland birds, it notes the
following losses (all of pairs):
- 4,600,000 fewer skylarks - three-quarters
of them have gone 4,100,000 fewer blackbirds, a third down 250,000 fewer
lapwings. This species is declining faster than any other farmland bird,
with nearly half vanishing from England and Wales since 1987 84,000 fewer
corn buntings - three-quarters have vanished from farmland and other countryside.
- Apart from farmland loss, there have
been serious declines in the wider countryside.
- The RSPB says half the song thrushes
have vanished in the last 25 years, and a third of the mistle thrushes.
- Some species on the up
- Yellowhammer numbers are down by half,
and linnets by more than a third.
- There is some good news. Chaffinches,
robins, great tits and woodpigeons, all species on the increase, will be
adding their voices to the chorus.
- Other flourishing species include nuthatches,
magpies, jackdaws and carrion crows.
- Those listed as stable are the pied wagtail,
greenfinch, goldfinch, wren and jay.
- The RSPB director of conservation, Dr
Mark Avery, said intensive agriculture was turning farmland into "wildlife-free
- "The first steps towards a new package
must be taken at the EU's Berlin summit this week.
- "Farmers must have clear incentives
to manage the environment, farm sustainably and create rural employment.
- "Wildlife-friendly farming is at
the very heart of it."