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

The state of the UK's birds report

Each year, we produce a report that reviews the latest survey results to give a valuable picture of the state of the UK's bird population.

SUKB provides an in-depth overview of the status of bird populations in the UK and its Overseas Territories (OTs), and gives an update on trends for as many of the UK's regularly occurring species as possible. It provides 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

Since 1999, the State of the UK’s birds reports have provided an annual overview of the status of the UK’s breeding and non-breeding bird species in the UK and its Overseas Territories. The report collates data from annual, periodic and one-off surveys and monitoring studies of birds, such as the Breeding Bird Survey, the Wetland Bird Survey and Goose and Swan Monitoring Programme.

The state of UK’s birds 2017 report has a special focus on the impact climate change has had and will have on bird populations in the UK. (PDF, 5.1Mb)

Headlines from the 2017 report

  • Climate change will provide opportunities for some species, while others will be more vulnerable.
  • Birds in the UK are showing changes in abundance and distribution, predominantly moving northwards, in a way that is consistent with a changing climate.
  • Migratory birds are arriving earlier and egg-laying dates have advanced. For example, swallows are arriving in the UK 15 days earlier, and breeding 11 days earlier, than they did in the 1960s.
  • A large number of bird species are likely to have opportunities for colonisation and range expansion in the UK under projected climate change. Potential colonists include a number of wetland species such as little bittern and night heron. A considerable list of southerly-distributed species have already shown substantial increases in recent years, including garganey, quail and little egret.
  • Climate change will increase the pressures on species already in decline. A number of our declining rare breeding birds, including dotterel, whimbrel, common scoter and Slavonian grebe, are likely to be at a higher risk of extinction in the UK, based on projections of how climate will become less suitable for them.
  • The UK’s kittiwake population has declined by 70% since 1986 because of falling breeding success and adult survival. Climate change has reduced the availability of the sandeels they rely upon in the breeding season. Other species that feed largely on sandeels, such as the Arctic skua, Arctic tern and puffin, are at high risk of climate-related decline.
  • National surveys provided updated population estimates for capercaillie and hen harriers and revealed declines for both species.
  • In the UK Overseas Territories, there are positive signs of recovery for four endemic land birds on Henderson Island and updates on a successful translocation project for the cahow.
 Bittern, feeding in reeds
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