London's changing biodiversity
Last modified: 06 August 2012
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.
How you can help
Nature is in trouble – so millions of people are stepping up to help. Our wildlife has been disappearing at an alarming rate. But small steps make a big difference. If we all act together and get stuck in, we can save our wildlife.
How you can get involved