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Growing deer population blamed for native bird decrease

The changing nature of the UK’s woodland and increasing browsing pressure from growing deer populations are contributing to a dramatic decline in numbers of some specialist woodland bird species such as the spotted flycatcher – according to results of the latest UK Breeding Bird Survey (BBS).

The findings were published last Thursday after nearly 3,000 volunteers counted more than a million individual birds of 220 species on behalf of the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the RSPB.

Since the first annual BBS in 1994, recorded numbers of several woodland species have dropped dramatically. These include the willow tit (down 77%), the spotted flycatcher (down 59%), the wood warbler (down 57%) and the pied flycatcher (down 54%).

Loss of woodland habitat was not identified as a contributing factor in these declines, since wooded areas in the UK are actually expanding.

However, the tree composition and age structure of our woodlands has changed over recent decades and it is thought increased pressure from the deer population browsing away the under-storey vegetation has contributed to the birds’ decline.

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