London’s changing biodiversity
6 August 2012
London Communications Manager
Blackbirds are vanishing from London’s gardens, but goldfinches are moving in by the dozen.
The latest figures from the Breeding Birds Survey [BBS 2011] reveal London is the only region in the UK where the number of blackbirds has dropped, falling by almost a quarter (22%).
The BBS survey started in 1994 and offers an annual comparison on bird populations across Britain. It is the UK Government’s main scheme for monitoring bird species as an indicator of the state of our environment’s health.
London’s thrushes appear to struggling to survive in London with blackbirds (down 22%), mistle (-51%) and song (-31%) thrushes all showing a drop in numbers last year compared with the baseline recorded in 1994.
House sparrows (-69%) and starlings (-40%) have seen their long-term decline continue. London’s mallard ducks and feral pigeons are also down compared with figures for 1994.
As these traditional urban residents decline, new ones are moving in. Goldfinches are up a massive 242% in the same seventeen-year period. Other species increasingly common in our gardens include blue tit, great tit, wren, robin, chaffinch and greenfinch.
The cause, or causes, of the change are not clear. One issue for London is its increasing loss and fragmentation of gardens. Demand for housing and parking is consuming space and the Capital’s population continues to grow; the latest population estimate shows 8.2 million people living in London.
The RSPB is supporting measures to increase public meadows of grass and wildflowers, alongside management plans that ensure year round coverage of vegetation, especially during the bird-breeding season. More meadows, like those created around the popular Olympic Park, are needed.
Londoners can help by using any available outdoor space to grow nectar and seed rich plants. Free advice and information is available by registering for the charity’s Homes for Wildlife help-pages.
- The Breeding Bird Survey [BBS] is run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and is jointly funded by the BTO, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) (on behalf of the statutory nature conservation agencies: Council for Nature Conservation and the Countryside, the Countryside Council for Wales, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage), and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).Download a full copy of the BBS 2011 results here: http://www.bto.org/sites/default/files/u16/downloads/reports/bbsreport11.pdf
- The RSPB is Europe’s largest conservation charity, working to save and support the UK’s urban and rural wild life and wild places. With more than a million registered supporters, we speak out for nature, champion development which brings economic growth alongside a healthy environment for people and wildlife, and aim to bring people closer to nature. www.rspb.org.uk/london.
- The RAC Foundation’s recently released report, Spaced Out: Perspectives on parking policy, reveals some of the issues surrounding pressure on land availability from development: http://www.racfoundation.org/assets/rac_foundation/content/downloadables/spaced_out-bates_leibling-jul12.pdf
- London’s population figures, taken from The Office for National Statistics: Table P04 2011 Census: Usual resident population by five-year age group, local authorities in England and Wales from
- Homes for Wildlife is a FREE online advice and information service. Registrants receive free help based on the information they supply about their available outdoor space. Registration is free online at www.rspb.org.uk/HfW
- Find out more about our work in the Capital by visiting our blog page, or follow us on Facebook.
- RSPB London is a proud member of The London Biodiversity Partnership, co-ordinating conservation work across the Capital: www.lbp.org.uk.