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Shooting groups concern over wildfowl numbers

Signs of dramatic changes for a variety of wetland birds, including mallard, have been reported in the latest State of the UK’s Birds survey.

The report, which is published by an alliance of organisations including the RSPB, the British Trust for Ornithology and Natural England, found that numbers of Britain’s most familiar duck have hit a record low.

Other significant population changes that emerged from the report included the pochard, which has, according to the study, declined by 46% since 1998.

Commenting on the survey’s results, a BASC spokesman said: “The joint report is a valuable indicator of trends in the UK’s bird populations.”

“All shooters are interested in the UK’s birds — especially quarry species — and BASC will make its own thorough assessment of the implications of the changes detailed in the report.”

The authors of the report say that the reasons behind such population changes are “complex and not yet fully understood”, and they point to other species which have increased in numbers over recent years.

The shoveler, a close relative of the mallard, has increased by 27% since 1998, and pinkfoot geese have reached their highest population levels since records began.

Natural England’s senior ornithologist, Phil Grice, said that results from waterbird monitoring schemes in other parts of Europe have shown that some of the changes are likely to be explained by “short-stopping” — when birds do not migrate as far because of milder conditions elsewhere.

He said: “The production of robust evidence on the numbers and movements of birds is vital in ensuring their long-term survival in a changing world.”

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