Turtle doves are now the UK?s most threatened farmland bird, according to DEFRA?s 2010 bird survey figures, published last week, and grey partridges also remain in decline.

Figures revealed that turtle dove populations fell 21 per cent between 2009 and 2010 and grey partridge numbers are still falling having declined by 80 per cent since 1970.

In 2010 breeding farmland bird populations in England were at the lowest level ever recorded, at less than half (48 per cent) of what they were in 1970. Most of the declines occurred between the late 1970s and the early 1990s, but there was also a fall of 10 per cent overall in the most recent five years, from 2004 to 2009.

Changes in farming practices, such as the loss of mixed farming systems, the move from spring to autumn sowing, and increased pesticide use, have been shown to have had adverse impacts on farmland birds such as skylark and grey partridge. Yellow wagtails have declined by over 70 per cent and starling, tree sparrows and corn buntings by 80 per cent since 1970.

The rest of this article appears in the 7th December issue of Shooting Times.

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