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Climate change hits birds

PUBLISHED: 15:52 25 August 2008 | UPDATED: 08:27 28 March 2014

AUGUST 24, 2008: A range of bird species are being adversely affected by climate change, according to the latest State of the UK's Birds report.

Increasing temperatures triggered by climate change are believed to be the cause of birds such as the chaffinch, blue and great tits, robins and swallows laying their eggs about a week earlier on average than in the mid 1960s.

These changes were noted by the British Trust for Ornithology's annual nest record scheme involving 500 volunteers monitoring around 30,000 nests. This is the first year the nest survey has been included in the State of the UK's Birds report, an annual publication produced by a coalition of conservation organisations.

Other BTO research included raised concern that expected drier summers in the UK due to climate change could impact on song thrushes. The BTO says fewer song thrush chicks are reared during dry summers because their staple food of earthworms are much harder to find.

The report also indicated numbers of some wading bird species visiting the UK's food-rich estuaries during winter have declined since the late 1990s. Particularly acute declines have been noted in numbers of species including purple sandpipers, ringed plovers and dunlins, which are thought to be due to birds wintering elsewhere in Europe where conditions are becoming more suitable.

The Balearic shearwater - the only critically endangered bird species to regularly visit the UK - is having to travel increasingly further north to find food as climate change is leading to shifts in distribution of fish, according to research highlighted by the report.

‘As often before, birds are acting like the canaries in a mine shaft and giving us early warning of dangerous change,' said RSPB's Dr Mark Avery.

* Country Smallholding is launching a campaign to encourage smallholders to help save threatened species of farmland birds. Over the past 35 years there has been a dramatic decline in Britain's population of farmland species. Full details in the October issue of CS.

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