New official statistics on the UK’s wild bird population show no significant changes to the pattern of the last 37 years.

The government’s indicators cover breeding seabird and woodland bird populations and wintering wetland birds, and assesses progress against the government’s Public Service Agreement target for breeding farmland birds in England.

The all-species indicator shows that, on average, the population index of 116 breeding bird species in the UK has remained broadly stable throughout the period since 1970, except for four new woodland species which have declined significantly in recent years.

The indicator for farmland birds in the UK is about 55 per cent of its 1970 value but has remained fairly stable since the early 1990s. The farmland bird index gives a similar picture of relative stability following decline. There is no evidence yet of any reverse in the decline.

The woodland bird indicator for the UK is about 20 per cent lower than in the early 1970s. The most severe decline took place in the late 1980s/early 1990s, with the indicator broadly stable in recent years.

The indicator of breeding seabird species in the UK is 30 per cent higher than in 1970. Populations peaked in the late 1980s, since when there is evidence of a small decline.

Changes in seabird population may not yet fully reflect the low breeding success rates of some species during recent years because seabirds reach maturity slowly and are long-lived.

The UK wintering wetland birds indicator rose by nearly 80 per cent between 1975/76 and 2001/02, but there are signs of a decline in more recent years.

These indicators, which are included in the government’s Sustainable Development Strategy indicators, show changes in the breeding and wintering populations of common native bird species.

Bird populations are considered to be a good indicator of the broad state of wildlife and countryside because they occupy a wide range of habitats and are high in the food chain.