British Snow Bunting population assessed in Scotland

Globally, Snow Bunting has a circumpolar distribution, breeding commonly from Scandinavia to Alaska, Canada and Greenland.

1 January Snow Bunting

Weighing no more than a golf ball, it is a familiar sight around Britain’s coasts in the winter months, but a small breeding population can also be found on the highest peaks of Scotland.

During June 2011, a team of scientists and volunteers led by the RSPB and Scottish Natural Heritage scaled mountains in the Cairngorms and the Highlands, such as Ben Nevis and Ben Alder, to listen out for singing males.

The survey involved searching 58 sites, covering an impressive 12,000 ha – the equivalent of more than 14,800 football pitches – and the results, published this month in the journal Bird Study, estimate Britain’s breeding population of Snow Buntings at 60 pairs.

Read the full story here


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BFBC results 2018

February saw the fifth annual Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, and sponsored by BASF, with record numbers of participants and species recorded

Over 1000 farmers took part and recorded 121 species across over 950,000 acres. That’s more farmers than in any previous year.

The BFBC was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland bird numbers. The count offers a simple means of recording the effect of any conservation work currently being instigated by farmers and gamekeepers on their land, such as supplementary feeding birds through winter or growing crops specifically to provide seed for birds.

What did farmers see?

The most commonly seen species were blackbirds and woodpigeons, seen by over 80% of our participants. Robins, blue tits, and pheasants were seen by over 70% of the farmers.

Skylark May 2015

At the other end of the scale, we were delighted to see that a total of 25 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern were recorded, with 5 appearing in the 25 most commonly seen species list: fieldfares, starlings, house sparrows, song thrushes and yellowhammers. The most abundant of these were the first two, which were seen on nearly 40% of the farms taking part.

The five most abundant birds seen were starlings, woodpigeons, fieldfares, rooks and chaffinches. A total of 99,712 were found, making up nearly 50% of the………

Read the full details on the GWCT website and find out more about the GWCT’s work

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Mystery of how birds navigate solved

The mystery behind how birds navigate might finally be solved


It’s not the iron in their beaks providing a magnetic compass, but a newly discovered protein in their eyes that lets them “see” Earth’s magnetic fields

These findings come courtesy of two new papers – one studying robins, the other zebra finches.

The zebra finch study was published in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface, and the robin study was published in Current Biology.

bird vision

This is how a bird might see magnetic fields. (Theoretical and Computational Biophysics/UofI)

So what does a bird actually see? Well, we can’t ever know what the world looks like through another species’ eyes, but we can take a very strong guess.

According to researchers at the Theoretical and Computational Biophysics group at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, whose researcher Klaus Schulten first predicted magnetoreceptive cryptochromes in 1978, they could provide a magnetic field “filter” over the bird’s field of view – like in the picture above.

Read the full story here

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Celebrating nightingales

The incredible song of Common Nightingale on a spring evening is a real treat. Once you know where to find them and get the timing just right, you’ll be rewarded with a performance few other songbirds can match.

This superstar of the British summer has an illustrious repertoire that includes at least 250 different phrases: a rich, fluid and melodic warble interspersed with croaking, grunting and high pitched singular notes.

This lyrical phrasing is now becoming harder to hear as the species’ population is crashing: 90 per cent of the UK’s nightingales have vanished in the past 50 years, and their range has contracted, confining them to the south and east.


Loss of scrubby habitat is clearly a significant factor in its decline – in fact the most important UK site for the species is once again threatened by development. Lodge Hill in Medway, Kent, has for many years been a real stronghold for the species. Its patches of ancient woodland, grassland and extensive bushes form the perfect habitat for nightingales, and up to 85 singing males have been recorded here. However, the site has been earmarked for development and for more than four years there has been a campaign to save Lodge Hill for its nightingales – and the nation.

This year the National Nightingale Festival is back with a series of fantastic walks and performances across the country, a timely celebration of a Red-listed migrant which is at serious risk of being lost from Britain.

Read the rest of the story at BirdGuides

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One of the reasons for nightingale decline is the loss of habitat caused by overpopulation of deer

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Why do birds sing in the morning?

A certain generation will remember singing in school assembly the hymn ‘Morning has broken’ with the lyrics ‘blackbird has spoken like the first bird…’

Male Blackbird (Turdus merula)

Biologists think this may be because they are settled in their territory and are letting others know their whereabouts.

Some ornithologists think that birds like to sing in the morning because the sound carries further…….

Read the rest of the story on the Metro

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Don’t forget International Dawn Chorus Day on 6th May
Learn about the sounds of the dawn chorus

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Drones join war on songbird trappers at Cyprus military bases

Police on British military bases in Cyprus have used drones and night vision goggles to turn the tide in a campaign against illegal trappers catching and killing hundreds of thousands of songbirds

Officers working with forces personnel estimate they have cut the number of migratory songbirds caught in trappers’ nets by as much as 70 per cent and destroyed large amounts of kit used to catch them

The year-long crackdown on illegal bird poaching on the British sovereign bases in Cyprus has resulted in a “huge” drop in the number of poachers operating inside the bases’ territory

Small migratory birds such as blackcaps are considered a traditional delicacy by some Cypriots and sophisticated trapping feeds a multimillion-pound illicit trade.

Gavin Williamson, the Defence Secretary, said: “Bird trapping is not only a cruel and barbaric trade, it lines the pockets of criminal gangs to the tune of thousands of pounds.

Still-from-trapping-footage_450_850_crp - birdlifecyprus video link

Image taken from video by BirdLife Cyprus – see full footage here

“Thanks to the fantastic work of our Armed Forces and the Sovereign Base Police there has been a 70 per cent fall in the number of birds killed in the Sovereign Base Areas. By seizing and destroying the tools criminals use, we are protecting migratory birds and hitting bird trappers in the pocket.  And by doubling the number of thermal image drones used to catch the poachers, we will strive for even more positive results.”

Read the full story at the Telegraph

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Longer-Living Urban Blackbirds Have Reduced Bill Of Health

City blackbirds live longer but are less healthy than their country counterparts, a study has found

For the blackbird, the benefits of urban living include better access to food and less chance of being killed by a predator, scientists believe

The downside is that city birds age faster and are generally less fit.

What accounts for the trend is unknown, but may involve exposure to city pollution early in life.

AmselProfessor Simon Verhulst, a member of the research team from the University of Groningen in the Netherlands, said: “This could be present at birth or develop in the first year, as cities are an unhealthy environment.”

To study the health effects of city life on blackbirds, the scientists used a well known genetic ageing marker…..     Read the full story at Huffington post


This fascinating research sits alongside SBS own research on urban birds
Find out more here: Gardens for birds
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Can giving be good for business?

Business giving makes up only 2% of UK charities’ total income

70% of surveyed charities admitted that they did not have the time or resources to target SMEs, as it can take ten hours to secure just one donation

Work for good commissioned a survey of 100 small and medium sized businesses and nearly 100 charity fundraisers to find out whether giving can be good for business.

Key findings include:

  • 68% of businesses who give to charity report a positive impact on profits.
  • The more they give, the more benefits they report, including enhanced company reputation, improved recruitment and retention of staff as well as increased profits.


    • 1 in 4 businesses surveyed have yet to give.
    • Only 20% give regularly.

Read the full survey and results here

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Bird tables and feeders in gardens could spread diseases, warn experts

Gardeners in the UK spend around £200 million a year on bird food, which helps some of Britain’s most beloved species get by in the harsh winter months and beyond

But research by Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), suggests that bird tables and feeders are spreading illness because they bring species together which would never normally come into contact

The risk of disease is also increased if bird tables and other feeding stations are not kept clean, so stale food, food waste and droppings accumulate, the report warned

Birds Feeding,various species,bird feeder.

Co-author Kate Risely from BTO said: “We’re calling on everyone who feeds wild birds to be aware of their responsibility for preventing disease.”Simple steps we’d recommend include offering a variety of food from accredited sources, feeding in moderation, so that feeders are typically emptied every 1-2 days, the regular cleaning of bird feeders and rotation of feeding sites to avoid accumulation of waste food or bird droppings.

Read the full story at the Telegraph online

SongBird Survival reiterate our advice found at:
Feeding birds
Cleaning and maintaining feeders
Where to place feeders
Research findings for garden birds and feeding

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Many farmers go unrewarded in delivering ‘public goods’

Significant improvements are being made in the way England’s farmland is being managed to benefit the environment

However, a new survey by the Campaign for the Farmed Environment (CFE) shows that many farmers are unrewarded for improving and advancing “public goods”

The findings reveal how much work is currently undertaken without any payment from the current stewardship schemes.

The farmers surveyed help to protect water quality, soil health and farm wildlife. Some 90% of respondents had improved their soil management, 81% had increased their efficiency in using pesticide and fertilisers, and 73% had adopted nutrient management planning.

For every farmer receiving an agri-environment payment for sowing a pollen and nectar mix, another farmer is doing the same voluntarily.

About twice as many arable farmers are providing supplementary feeding for birds and about four times as many are sowing catch and cover crops at their own expense outside any scheme.

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