State of Birds in Wales revealed
Fersiwn Gymraeg ar gael yma

Wherever work might be undertaken to conserve future populations of wildlife, it’s always helpful to gain thorough understanding of the current state of affairs. Knowing whether a species might be on the increase or declining allows conservationists to work out the best course of action to take to help the species survive.

Buzzard by Ben Andrew rspb-images.comBirds are powerful indicators of the health of our environment since many species sit at the top of their food chain. This report provides us with a gateway into their current states and allows us to discover more about their status in Wales – both native and migratory birds.

The State of Birds in Wales report brings together in one place results from annual, periodic and one-off surveys across Wales. It has been produced by The British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Welsh Ornithological Society (WOS), Natural Resources Wales (NRW) and RSPB Cymru. Here’s a summary of what the report discovered.

Lost from Wales

The report showed a number of species have already disappeared from Wales, with changes to the environment and climate impacting on their habitats and way of life. Iconic birds such as corn buntings, dotterels and nightingales have been lost completely from Wales. Their disappearance is a result of thriving breeding populations dwindling as their geographic ranges shrank, until they are now no longer found in Wales.

A crucial haven

Wales calls itself home to a large proportion of the UK populations of many breeding and wintering species. We host more than half of the UK breeding populations of the rare choughs, piedflycatchers and redstarts, as well as more than quarter of the UK breeding populations of honey buzzards, goshawks, wood warblers, red kites and ravens. Wales is also home to a large proportion of the global population of Manx shearwater – with over 50% of the world’s Manx shearwaters now breeding on the Pembrokeshire islands of RSPB Ramsey, Skomer Island and Skokholm. Another island off the coast of Pembrokeshire, Grassholm Island, holds the third-largest gannetry in the UK.

Precarious situation

Among the birds of upland farmed habitats, number of curlews, golden plovers, black grouse, red grouse and ring ouzels all declined. In contrast choughs remained positive in both the short and long term, nevertheless there is concern about declines in numbers of chough breeding inland in north and mid Wales since 2002. The report then showed how kittiwakes have declined by 35% in Wales since 1986. Welsh Government must now progress work to assess the need for new protected sites at sea for this species and measures to protect the prey that they rely upon.

Curlew by Ben Andrew rspb-images.comThis report informs the all-important policy positions we take as an organisation. This is a critical time for nature in Wales as Welsh Government is deciding what our laws and environmental policy will look like after we leave the European Union. It is vital that we get the right policies and laws in place to ensure protection of the environment and our wildlife post-Brexit.

How you can help

Thanks to the work of 2,814 volunteers, who surveyed a record-breaking 3,941 1-km BBS squares across the UK, information was gathered on 117 common and widespread species in 2017. In Wales, 337 BBS squares were surveyed - more than twice the number first surveyed in 1994.

Bird monitoring in Wales is undertaken by specialists and volunteers alike. Many survey schemes are led by non-governmental organisations and they rely on the remarkable effort of the volunteers that support them. Citizen science plays a crucial role in saving Wales’ species from extinction and there are plenty of opportunities to be involved; you can help with the science, through direct intervention and by showing your support for wildlife across Wales. To find out more about how you can get involved, please email

The full report can be found here.

Images in order they appear: Red Kite by Ben Andrew, Manx shearwater by Chris Gomersall and curlew by Andy Hay.