Category Archives: Chat about the decline in bird numbers


I am really worried!

This year as with every year, summer really doesn’t start until the swifts arrive.

Usually they appear mid to early May, dipping and diving at incredible speed above our little Warwickshire town. Our town is predominately medieval/Elizabethan timber framed houses, many of them still sporting their open eaves and perfect swift nesting roof voids. There are also a good number of outbuildings at the rear of properties which have been used year after year by a long generation of swift families.

This year though, there has been no shrill swift calls and no large aerial displays like other years. In fact we have only noticed 3 or 4 pairs as opposed to the usual 30 or 40 pairs.

The swift nursery we purpose built 7 years ago in our roof void is empty and as May turns to June we are losing hope that they are so mehow delayed and will soon arrive.

We are located in South Warwickshire,  The loss of this magnificent and heart lifting bird, that has graced our skys and is part of our towns historical past, probably from before the time of Shakespeare, is devastating.

Has anybody else experienced a significant drop in the swift/swallow population? Is it possible that they are late arriving this year due to world weather and climate changes (ie volcano eruption, earthquake, tsunami, etc.)?

Could it be the re-introduction of certain birds of prey to the UK? (I have noticed a huge increase in the population of Red Kites on the outskirts of Oxford and they can be seen hovering in large numbers as you drive through on the M40 Oxford to London. They are magnificent birds, but could they be contributing to the loss of our summer migrationary birds?)

Although I know the loss of nesting sites has made it difficult for them in this country, because of the ideal nesting sites we have in our Town, I would not have expected such a dramatic drop as this. I’d love to hear that Swifts are still in abundance elsewhere in the country as without our resident summer aerial performers, the usual festive spirit that accompanies the many street and folk festivals we have in our town, lacks their usual lustre. Kind regards, C. Gray –


I received the above from Gary and have put together some information.

The Swift Conservancy Group would be interested to hear from you and would be able to advise you.

The RSPB have an online  ‘Swift Survey’  

It is worrying and sad this is happening and is outside our control.  It has been said that swifts could be extinct in 20 years.  I hope not.

It is not just that swifts look beautiful but swifts save us from disease –

There was talk of a Swift Tower at the 2012 Olympics


I hope this helps you.  Our swift and swallow numbers have been dropping every year.

It seems to be out of our hands. Lets hope they appear, as if by magic, out of the skies soon.

I will see if I can find anything from other parts of the country. Let me know what you find – if anything.





 I’m sure you already know it’s WORLD SPARROW DAY tomorrow 20th March 2011,

more info here


Wherever you are tomorrow please make a note of the sparrows you see wherever you are in the World and submit the details here on the Tree Sparrow sightings page,

 And   just say which species and some detail on where exactly they were. We’ll pass the records on the the relevant recorders … don’t forget, the information will help towards understanding the general decline in the worldwide populations of these sociable and fascinating birds.


 A while ago a lady in Sweden email about something similar that had happened in Sweden.  This is what she said –

” Something similiar happend here in southern sweden.

After a while the only understadble reason was a power cable  –   a bit from there  likly disturbed the birds navigations.

We are disturbing nature in so many ways and kill so much life in waste for our relaxing lyxuis wayof leaving.

do you know how many birds die of trafic and poision everyday?? just on one week in sweden it dies more birds in traffic than several Sparrowhawks  consume during their life!


Hi,  life is becoming stressful because of a sparrowhawk. 

I found this a week or so ago and have sent away for it, it was only £15 including recorded delivery.  I havent had a chance to rig it up yet.

The guy from the website told me to attach a piece of rot proof twine to a tree one end and the house the other about 15 feet above the ground. 

This is proving a little difficult at the moment and I have even considered buying a window cleaners pole as I am determined to try and keep this awful bird out.  They are causing the reduction in our song birds. 

Anyway, since reading the pack today, the manufacturer suggests attaching it to a fence post or similar, so I guess I will try that first before going to the expense of poles etc.  They are apparently pretty effective and there is a money back guarantee. I dont know if you are a u.k. or u.s. website but this product is supplied from a company in the u.s. so must be available there as well.  Hope this helps.


Thank you for sending this Elaine. 

Thank you for caring for our British Birds. Let us know how you get on with it. 

This weather is so freezing that any job outside is difficult.  I get frozen feeding the birds, brushing the snow away and doing other outside jobs, so I’m sure you will be cold trying to put up this sparrowhawk deterrant.

I must say though that the other day I felt sorry for a sparrowhawk.  It was flying low over snow covered fields.  I watched it for a while and there was no sign of life aywhere on the white countryside.  I bet that is why one has come to your garden. 


A while ago Mal got in touch as  dunnocks had disappeared from his garden – where they had been for years.

This is what he said the –

He’s been in touch again to say he has now got one dunnock in his garden. He still doesn’t know why or where they disappeared to.

I replied to him –

Really pleased you have got a dunnock back. And thanks for letting us know.

Do you put any bird food out?    Bird food would certainly attract and help dunnocks and other birds as well.

I use Nature’s Feast High Energy Supreme.  It is about £20 for a large bag! but it feeds so many garden birds. It  is the only bird seed i put out in the ground feeder and in places on the lawn.  Dunnocks come to the ground feeder to get this seed.

I put out other bird food though. 

You must have a hedge and maybe some shrubs where they can ‘hide’ and shelter

I live on a farm and we had someone from Natural England advising us on which bird food mix would be good on the farm for wild birds.  Through the kitchen window we could see a lot of birds, but he did not recognise a dunnock!   Dunnocks really do test your identification skills and powers of observation.

It’s great that you are trying to bring dunnocks back into your garden.  

The dunnock seems to love leaf litter and undergrowth.  I mostly see dunnocks on the ground – I put a lot of bird food out in a caged feeder and have surrounded a shrub with a type of ‘fence’ so that larger birds cannot get in.

The dunnock has a very thin bill and can only eat small things.   The bird seed I put out is very small and come to get that

thanks for getting in touch and I’m really pleased.  When I look out of the window and see a Dunnock I’ll try and think what is attracting it to my garden.

But I must say I live in the countryside and get a few birds from woodland nearby.

All but three of my swallows have gone

All but three of my swallows have gone and I’m concerned for the last three that are left.
Does anyone think they will leave on their own or perhaps will they stay.  There was a swallow in S.England that survived the winter in England last year. I’m North East and on a very exposed cliff top site.   Christine


Hi, Christine,

I think it is very unlikely the swallows will survive.

The parent swallows must have known they would not survive the flight.  Swallows have more than one brood and these swallows could  have been from the last brood.



For years I always had dunnocks in my garden and they had youngevery year,

 however this year I have neither seen or heard any.

Is there a problem with them.


I have had this question posed to me.  I’m sure I have had dunnocks in the garden, but they are so timid and creep  about under cover of hedges that just take them for granted.

Have you seen any dunnocks about?   I  hope so.



Swallows – very few here but two fields away there are so many swallows

All summer we have commented and pondered about how few swallows there are flying about our heads this summer.

Each summer the number of swallows reduces.  I remember when the sky was alive with them.

Now we see that two fields away there is a bountiful number of swallows.

Nature is unexplainable.

We have the same nesting sites.  We seem to have the same number of flies!  We still have the herd of cows – which attrack swallows.

So, all is not lost with the swallows and it was wonderful to see so many

I’d love to be able to do what  a 12C  German Prior did –

About the 12th Century in Germany a Prior in a Monastery fixed a parchment to a swallow’s leg asking –

 ‘Swallow where do you live in winter’

The following spring the Prior received the reply attached to the swallow’s leg

‘In Asia, the home of Petrus’.


Amazing.  What a simple idea.  How did the Prior catch the swallow?  Did he expect a reply? 

From that piece of parchment it was discovered that swallows flew from Germany to Asia. 


About 1740 a man called Johann Leonard Frisch tied some wool to swallows’ legs. 

He wanted to find out if the same swallow returned to the same nest year after year. 

The following Spring he found out that they do!


I anticipate the return of the swifts and swallows every Spring and know they return but there are only a handful on this farm at present.


I don’t think the birds would fair any better to be honest if you stop feeding them.

If you encounter a Sparrow Hawk stalking the garden then altering the feeding plan should help the smaller birds.

If there are one or even two SHs flying around then you would need to be extra vigilant and think very carefully about what to do, even if it means stopping feeding them for a week or two until there is no threat.

I haven’t seen a SH in my garden for many months now, and

I have stopped hanging up feeders.

I have camouflaged an area for the birds in which they can eat.

When the bird of prey was watching the feeders, I took them down and didn’t put much food out as normal until it was all clear. It would have been more difficult in the winter but I would’ve done my best to protect the garden birds and made sure they had something to eat. They are very happy out there and have a wonderful life eating healthily.

If it wasn’t for me and no doubt many others feeding them through the harsh winter I am certain most would’ve died.

To see the same groups of birds flying around after winter is a privilege.


Shell is a friend of Bird Table News and I’m really pleased she has sent this good advice.

I am a bit like Shell in the way I feed the birds.  I put some bird food under a bush and this has camouflagedthe bird food and birds of prey won’t be able to see it.

I do have hanging feeders but they are caged feeders now.

I echo what Shell says –  To see the same groups of birds flying around after winter is a privilege.

Thanks for getting in touch Shell





In response to the article below I received an interesting point of view  –

Here is the point of view –

I agree with most of the above items ,but my thought is that by putting feeding stations ,of whatever sort out for wild birds are we then not morally responsible,if these feeding stations become a target .

Is it possible that the birds would fair better if we had not fed them,a point which I would like to put to the RSPB as a member .They reckon that they are far too busy to answer emails ,

It is sad when you would like an answer to a question that is important to you ,that an organisation you have supported for years has not time for their members Nigel


This raises a few points.  Sadness that the RSPB do not answer member’s emails.  I remember emailing them and not getting a reply.  I thought the email must have not been received.  Now I wonder.

The RSPB are a charity.  But do they support garden birds at all.

A friend said that if they are a charity then why don’t they give away a certain amount of bird food – in the way that other charities give shelter and food to the homeless..  I think I follow her logic

I believe we become morally responsible for the birds we feed.  In some way their lives are in our hands.   We attract them in large and small numbers to certain areas of our gardens.  We save their lives in winter but we also attract birds of prey.

Perhaps the sparrowhawk would never have visited my garden and killed blackbirds if I had not put bird food out.  YetI know in the freezing cold of last winter I saved birds lives by putting bird food out.

You may be interested in SONGBIRD SURVIVAL