England's Blackbirds And
Many Other Species Disappearing
By Alex Kirby
BBC News Environment Correspondent
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 zones".
"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."