RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch in Wales shows starlings in 30-year decline

A survey of garden birds in Wales shows starling numbers are at an all time low since figures started being recorded 30 years ago.

And over the past 16 years breeding starlings have declined by over 60% in Wales, says the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

Almost 30,000 people took part in its Big Garden Birdwatch in Wales.

In the first survey in 1979, the number of starlings seen in gardens in Wales was 15. This year it was about four.

RSPB experts said large displays of the birds seen at the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (WWT) nature reserve in Llanelli, Carmarthenshire, last November and December, as well as a big roost at the pier at Aberystwyth creates a false impression that starling numbers are doing well.

They are beginning research into the breeding decline and say possible reasons include changes in their feeding habitats and soil changes reducing the availability in the insects they eat.

RSPB senior conservation scientist Ian Johnstone said: "It would be a tragedy if the numbers continue to plummet and we will do all we can to help stop this happening."

The RSPB points out that starlings are in decline across other parts of northern Europe.

In all, 500,000 birds were recorded in the garden survey in Wales with a massive rise in the number of sightings of goldfinches along with blue tits, great tits and magpies.

The RSPB is expecting a good start to the breeding season as it expects the milder weather will have helped more to have survived the winter.

Over 3,500 pupils and teachers took part in the schools' version of the survey in the last two weeks of January.

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