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Results in for the Big Farmland Bird Count


By David G Scott

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This February saw the eighth annual Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) organised by the Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust (GWCT), with record numbers of participants taking part.

In Scotland, 117 farmers took part and recorded 93 species across more than 98,000 acres – a 45 per cent increase in participation compared to last year.

Mallard duck on Wick river. Picture: DGS
Mallard duck on Wick river. Picture: DGS

The BFBC was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland bird numbers. The count offers a simple means of recording the effect of any conservation work currently being instigated by farmers and gamekeepers on their land, such as scatter feeding birds through winter or growing crops specifically to provide seed for birds.

What did farmers see?

The most commonly seen species were blackbirds, seen by almost 90 per cent of Scottish participants followed by robins. Pheasant, blue tit and woodpigeon were seen by 70 per cent of the farmers taking part. Blackbirds were also the most commonly seen species last year.

Gulls are commonly seen following tractors like this one at a farm near Wick. Picture: DGS
Gulls are commonly seen following tractors like this one at a farm near Wick. Picture: DGS

A total of 19 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern were recorded, with starling, fieldfare, yellowhammer and song thrush appearing in the 25 most frequently seen species list. Starling, linnet, fieldfare, redwing and herring gull were the five most abundant red listed species recorded with over 6400 total spotted which equates to more than 26 per cent of all species spotted.

The five most abundant birds seen were woodpigeon, starling, linnet, chaffinch and rook. A total of over 10,600 were seen, making up over 43 per cent of the total number of birds recorded.

Graph of data received on the most common sightings.
Graph of data received on the most common sightings.

Who took part?

The average farm size of those taking part was 837 acres with 53 per cent of participants in some form of agri-environment scheme, demonstrating their long-term commitment to environmental management.

58 per cent of participants were providing some form of extra seed feed for birds, either through growing wild bird seed mixes, or by providing additional grain through scatter feeding or via hoppers.

Blackbirds were the most common sightings.
Blackbirds were the most common sightings.

Where were participants from?

Farmers from 28 Scottish counties took part. Perthshire had the most returns, with 22 farmers completing the survey. This was followed by Aberdeenshire with 16.

Overall, Scottish support for the BFBC increased by more than 45 per cent compared to 2020, and a massive 125 per cent increase from 2019 count levels.

Dr Dave Parish, of GWCT Scotland, said: “This is great news – the highest turn out in terms of participants ever for the count in Scotland, and some encouraging data in terms of species seen and their abundance. These are important indicators and I’m hoping that this annual count will go from strength to strength.”

Farmers invited to get involved in Big Bird Count


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