PESTICIDES were last night blamed for a dramatic drop in the numbers of the nation’s birds.
A report reveals that almost half are struggling to breed, with a marked decline in species inhabiting farmland and woodland.
Species such as curlews, willow warblers, skylarks and pied flycatchers are among those deserting the Welsh terrain.
John Wilson, chairman of the Glamorgan Bird Society, said breeds such as skylarks, reed buntings and lapwings were in peril in farmland areas and pied flycatchers and spotted flycatchers in woodland.
He added: “Lapwings used to be a reasonably common breeding species in Glamorgan. I’m not sure there are any breeding pairs now. They breed on rough ground and with brownfield sites being developed, they are being pushed out.
“We’ve put out 30 nest boxes in Coed y Bedw, at the base of the Garth Mountain, and only one pied flycatcher used them last year. I don’t think there have been any this year.
“For farmland birds, it’s down to cleaner farming, using pesticides and herbicides to kill off weeds. There are not enough weeds going to seed for the birds to feed on and insecticides kill off the insects the birds rely on to feed their young.
“If you affect the bottom of the food chain, it has a knock-on affect on everything else.”
The Welsh Assembly Government report, using surveys by the British Trust for Ornithology and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, found that out of 124 bird species in Wales over the last 40 years:
16.9% had increased in number;
40.3 % had remained stable;
42.7% had fallen.
Over half the species of farmland birds had decreased in range over 20 years. The report said: “In Wales, the short-term abundance of all groups has declined from 2005 to 2006. The indicator shows no sign of recovery for those groups with long-term declines in range.”
But it added: “The loss of biodiversity has been halted and we can see a definite recovery in the number, range and genetic diversity of wildlife, including those species that need very specific conditions to survive.”
Agri-environment initiatives such as Tir Gofal were put in place to help farmers maximise populations, protect sensitive areas and continue running viable businesses. But they only represent 29.7% of the land in Wales.
Approximately 121,000 hectares of Welsh woodland were certified – managed to agreed environmental standards – in March 2008; 42.5 % of the total woodland area, which is a slight decrease from a peak of 43.6% in March 2005. But the report says woodland has remained fairly stable over the last few years.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds said, “Farmland birds continue to decline in the short-term and their range declines over the long-term. Evocative birds such as yellow- hammers and curlews have declined markedly.”