Losers outnumber winners is the succinct verdict on the 13th annual ‘stock-take’ of Britain’s birds. Overall, the State of the UK’s Birds 2012 report, compiled largely from volunteer surveys, points to an alarming loss of 44 million birds since 1966, which equates to a pair of nesting birds per minute. ‘The long-term picture is sobering,’ comments a British Trust for Ornithology official.

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The feisty wren continues to be the UK’s most numerous bird (8.6 million pairs), although numbers have dropped by about 835 a day since 2000, and the chaffinch has increased, by some 150 birds a day to 6.2 million. The decline of the house sparrow (5.3 million) continues to baffle ornithologists and it’s now among the 52 species red-listed in the UK (of most conservation concern). Some of these species, such as the bittern, nightjar and corncrake are showing recovery on a local basis, but two sea ducks-the velvet scoter and the longtailed duck-could become globally extinct and nearly every sea bird is in trouble.

Turtle-dove numbers have dropped dramatically to 14,000 pairs, yet the collared-dove population has exploded to nearly one million; the greatspotted woodpecker stands at 140,000 pairs, but its lesser-spotted cousin is a miserable 1,500; there are about 50,000 pairs of tawny owls but only 4,000 of barn owls. Unsurprisingly, magpies, crows, feral pigeons and buzzards are categorised as being ‘of least concern.

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