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Charity launches campaign to help make songbird survival a priority
Katie Hill - Editor-in-Chief, My Green Pod
Common swift

Four out of five Brits say birdsong makes them happier and 72% say it makes them less stressed.

But how many people know which three songbird species are the most threatened in their region, or how to help keep their exquisite songs alive?

The independent charity SongBird Survival has launched a new campaign to encourage members of the public – old and young, rural and urban – to ‘spot and plot’ three species of bird they can see, and also learn about the three species at risk from extinction in their region.

The campaign is being launched for International Dawn Chorus Day (02 May).

Help ‘stem the tide’ of extinction

UK songbird populations have declined by 50% across all songbird species – but some species have declined by up to 90% while others have increased.

Birdwatch results revealed that the goldfinch and collared dove (which had done well in recent years) had declined year on year, and only a few species – robins, blackbirds, carrion crows and song thrush – increased.

‘Our what3birds? campaign is focused on education, but its ultimate goal is to keep a rich and diverse dawn chorus alive. Few people realise that UK songbirds have fallen 50% in just two generations – 50 years! Yet the public can help stem this tide of extinction by finding out more, taking simple steps to support local songbirds, and putting pressure on policy makers to make songbird survival a priority.’

CEO of SongBird Survival


Species at risk by region

The most at-risk species include the birds below; the figure reveals the % decline in population 1995-2018.
Swift (-72%), Greenfinch (-63%), Yellowhammer (-63%)
Swift (-74%), Greenfinch (-59%), Yellowhammer (-46%)

Greenfinch (-64%), Starling (-63%), Cuckoo (-62%)

Cuckoo (-83%), Willow Warbler (-57%), Meadow Pipit (-54%)

Cuckoo (-78%), Starling (-70%), Greenfinch (-52%)

Turtle Dove (-96%), Willow Warbler (-81%) House Martin (-56%) 

Cuckoo (-83%), Starling (71%), Mistle Thrush (-57%)

House Sparrow (-67%), Starling (-63%), Mistle Thrush (-59%)

Turtle Dove -95%|Willow Warbler -81%|Meadow Pipit -61%

Swift (-72%), Greenfinch (-71%), Starling (-65%)

Greenfinch (-82%), Skylark (-28%), Reed Bunting (-28%)

Greenfinch (-67%), Curlew (-59%), Lapwing (-56%)

‘A combination of factors has led to the halving of UK songbirds in just two generations: habitat loss, lack of food, predation and invasion by non-native species are all to blame. Education is everything when it comes to conservation, so what3birds? will inform people which species are at risk in their region, and how to help. We hope the campaign stokes curiosity and unites us all as bird lovers of Britain.’

Manager of SongBird Survival

Songbird Survival tree sparrow

A simple way to plot locations

An online map has been designed by the charity so that members of the public can plot the birds they’ve spotted in their region and learn about the most at-risk species there.

Fast-growing location technology company, what3words, is being used for the campaign: it has divided the world into a grid of 3m squares, and labelled each one with three unique words – a ‘what3words address’.

This means the public can easily plot exactly where the birds are seen, without having to use complex systems like coordinates.

To discover your what3words location, open in your browser and click the search bar. Enter a street address or place name and select the correct result.

Zoom in, switch to satellite mode and drag the map to select the exact square you want. The what3words address for the selected square will be displayed in the red bar. 

How to get involved in what3birds

There are three simple steps for anyone who would like to get involved with the what3birds campaign.

Spot three (or more) types of bird you’ve seen using the bird identification tool here.
Using your what3words location, plot your sightings on the What3Birds? website here

Share with your friends & family the birds you’ve seen, plus the at-risk species. Tell them, write to them or share this info via social media by using the what3words location and the hashtag #what3birds?

Help save our songbirds

Here are some other tips from the charity to help you to protect our songbirds.

1.  Clean your feeders and birdbaths regularly to stop the spread of disease
2.  Delay hedge cutting until after the nesting period (September), as it disturbs songbirds
3.  Plant insect-attracting plants, seeding plants and native plants so that native wildlife flourishes
4.  Avoid chemical pesticide or herbicides, as they can be deadly to songbirds
5. Do not feed birds bread, milk, desiccated coconut or any salty foods
6. Inspire others to take action: send an inspirational image of an at-risk songbird species in their region
7. Become a member of SongBird Survival, donate or fundraise
8. Find out more about the top-quality scientific research that SongBird Survival funds

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