Famous farmland birds in danger of extinction.

Their warning follows the publication of new DEFRA statistics, largely based on bird monitoring schemes organised by the British Trust for Ornithology through its volunteer network, which show that species such as grey partridge and turtle dove have shown the most marked declines of all the UK’s wild birds.

There are estimated to be around 43,000 pairs of grey partridges in the UK, a 30% fall over the past five years.

Turtle dove numbers have dropped by 60% over the same period.

RSPB scientist, Mark Eaton, said: “Losing six out of 10 of our turtle doves and three out of 10 grey partridges in five years is nothing short of an unsustainable wildlife disaster.”

“The turtle dove is in a great degree of danger — if this trend was to continue we could be down to fewer than 1,000 pairs by the middle of the next decade, with complete extinction a real possibility.”

Though the largest decreases in farmland bird populations since 1970 occurred between the late 1970s and early 1990s, the statistics show a pronounced recent decline of 13% since 2003.

DEFRA blames changes in farming practices, such as the loss of mixed farming systems, the move from spring to autumn sowing, and increased pesticide use, but acknowledges that many farmers are now taking positive steps to conserve birds on their land.