National Beef Association
For everyone with an interest in the British beef industry

Greater influences than changes in farming practice are impacting on UK bird populations.

20th November 2012

Region: National

It is too simplistic for conservation bodies including the RSPB to point the finger at changes in rural land management as the most significant cause for the 20 per cent fall in total UK bird numbers since 1966, the National Beef Association has said following the publication yesterday (November 19th) of the Society’s critical report “State of the UK’s Birds 2012”.

“Like all rural organisations the NBA, and its members, are concerned by the decline in fondly regarded species like house sparrows, turtle doves and the wren but, as the RSPB itself also notes, many causes of declines aren’t fully understood which is reinforced by the increase of the chaffinch and incomers to the UK such as the collared dove, proving this cannot alone be an issue of food and habitat availability ” said its chairman, Hamish McBean.

“It is apparent that other factors, besides shifts in farming practice, are also at play such as climate change and urban spread, while a highly visible increase in predators has to be taken into account. We have members who despair at the carnage inflicted on ground nesting birds including waders and the increasingly rare black grouse by predators”

“A well publicised increase in predatory or opportunistic species such as the nest-robbing magpie, and other members of the crow family, has combined with the increased presence of other harmful but protected species such as buzzards and even badgers all of which will take either eggs, or small or young birds.  This surely has to have an influence on our overall bird numbers”.

Meanwhile NBA are keen to point out the benefits that both traditional farming and new agri-environment measures can provide.-“More and more farmers are managing their farms with the environment in mind, maintain open grasslands for nesting birds, creating ponds or new hedges, and planting woodlands in response to biodiversity targets, however more importantly the traditional practices of grazing cattle - in particular over semi-natural ground -has major biodiversity gains” stated Mr McBean. 

“We know that cattle and wildlife co-habit extremely well and many birds such as the lapwing and redshank are very often dependent on livestock to maintain swards and insects through their grazing habits and their dung which can protect and ensure thriving wildlife on farms.

“We must not forget that as well as providing us with quality, healthy food, our traditional livestock farms provide us with additional, important value including wildlife management, and our rich rural landscapes. 

“Worryingly we have declining livestock numbers and farming families in the UK, most notably from the uplands largely due to the cost of production and this is equally concerning to our environment and our wildlife but also our social and economic stability in our rural areas”. Mr McBean added.

For more information contact:
Hamish McBean, national chairman National Beef Association.  Tel: 01309 651206