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14 February, 2018

Statistical News Release: Index of Abundance for Scottish Terrestrial Breeding Birds, 1994 to 2016

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has today released the latest figures tracking the abundance of Scotland’s terrestrial breeding birds.

Over the long term (1994-2016), the combined abundance for 66 species of terrestrial breeding bird increased to a maximum in 2007, with year to year change becoming more variable since then. In 2016 it stood at 14% above the baseline figure (using the smoothed indices – see note 2).

Over the short term (2015-2016), using the unsmoothed indices, the all-species index decreased by 9%, the farmland bird index decreased by 16% and the upland bird index decreased by 8%. The woodland bird index change was not significant.

Analysis of habitat specific trends did show some change over the long term: woodland birds increased by 67%; farmland bird index showed a steady increase up to the late-2000s, subsequently fluctuating between 13% and 23% above the 1994 value; in 2016 it was 14% higher than in 1994. Upland birds decreased by 16% over the same period.  There are numerous explanations for the long-term trends observed. These differ between species and include the conditions experienced in wintering areas (e.g. whitethroat), the ability of some birds to exploit different food sources (e.g. goldfinch) or land use changes (e.g. curlew).


For media enquiries only

Vicki Mowat, press & public relations officer, Scottish Natural Heritage 0131 316 2659 or email (Tue – Fri) or the main Inverness press office on 01463 725 022.

Contact information

SNH Media

Notes to editors

 1. The full statistical publication can be accessed at

2. Smoothed indices are a statistical way of removing the year to year fluctuations that naturally appear, for example because of weather conditions or sampling variations, to allow the underlying trend to be more easily seen.

3. The data used in the report primarily come from the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) ( )

4. Official statistics are produced by professionally independent statistical staff in accordance with the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.

5. The Breeding Bird Survey is run by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), and jointly funded by the BTO, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC, the statutory adviser to Government on UK and international nature conservation, on behalf of Natural Resources Wales, the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs, Northern Ireland, Natural England and Scottish Natural Heritage) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).

6. Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help everyone understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now, and in the future. For more information, visit our website at SNH media is also now on Twitter at

Scottish Natural Heritage is Scotland's nature agency. We work to improve our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. We work to ensure that all nature in Scotland - our key habitats and landscapes, all our green space and our native species - is maintained, enhanced and brings us benefits. It is the job of all of us to achieve a balance in the sensitive management of our natural world in order to maintain and enhance biodiversity. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

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