Choughs (pyrrhocrax graculus) pair in flight at dusk, South Stack RSPB reserve, Wales

The state of the UK's birds report

The state of the UK’s birds report (SUKB) uses survey results to give a valuable picture of how birds are faring in the UK and its Overseas Territories.

SUKB provides an in-depth overview of the status of bird populations and gives an update on trends for as many of the UK’s regularly occurring species as possible. It is a one-stop shop for all the latest results from annual, periodic and one-off surveys and monitoring programmes.

Read the report

Golden eagle Aquila chrysaetos adult male sitting in heather, Cairngorms National Park, Scotland

In SUKB 2020, our first report since 2017, we combine the latest population estimates (published in 2020 by the Avian Population Estimates Panel) with trend information, in order to examine how bird numbers have changed over time. We present results combined for all native breeding species, as well as individual species.

For the first time in SUKB, we present short sections about each of the four UK countries. These sections explore the different patterns of species’ change in each country and show the variety of ways that species’ monitoring data are being used to influence policy and conservation decisions.

Headlines from the 2020 report

  • New figures from the Avian Population Estimates Panel (APEP) suggest that there are 83 million pairs of native breeding birds in the UK. This is 19 million pairs fewer than when widespread monitoring began in the late 1960s. This figure is similar to that presented in The state of the UK’s birds 2012, based on the previous APEP report, suggesting that, in terms of total breeding bird numbers, the period of relative stability that began in the 1990s is continuing.
  • Despite significant conservation successes, around a third of all albatross and petrel species found in the UK Overseas Territories and Crown Dependencies are at risk of global extinction due to fisheries bycatch and predation by introduced mammalian predators such as mice.
  • Species’ trends vary across the UK. For example, cuckoos are increasing in Scotland but declining in England, very likely due to the loss of food resources in more intensively managed lowland environments. House sparrows are increasing strongly in Wales but have declined in England, whereas the Welsh buzzard population hasn’t seen the increases found in other countries.
  • The size of the non-native bird population increases over 10-fold in the late summer, when an estimated 57 million captive-reared pheasants and red-legged partridges are released for shooting.
  • Volunteers play an essential role in bird monitoring in the UK by donating their time and expertise. The data they collect is vital for conservation, advocacy and policy development. Thank you to all those involved.
 Bittern, feeding in reeds