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20 November, 2014

Statistical News Release: Index of Abudance for Scottish Terrestrial Breeding Birds

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland:
Index of Abundance for Scottish terrestrial breeding birds, 1994 to 2013

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

Over the long term (1994-2013), the combined abundance for 66 species of terrestrial breeding bird showed a steady increase up to the mid-2000s but has since declined. There is no significant difference between the start and end of the time series (using the smoothed indices – see note 2).

Analysis of habitat specific trends did show some change: woodland birds increased by 51%; farmland birds showed a steady increase up to the late-2000s but have since declined, so there is no significant difference between 1994 and 2013; and upland birds decreased by 21%. There are numerous explanations for the long-term trends observed. These differ between species and include the conditions experienced in wintering areas (e.g. chiffchaff), the ability of some birds to exploit different food sources (e.g. goldfinch) or outbreaks of diseases (e.g. trichomonosis in greenfinch).

Using the unsmoothed indices, over the short-term (2012-2013), the farmland, woodland and all-species indices decreased by 10%. This decline may be partly attributable to the weather conditions in 2012 which resulted in a poor breeding season and subsequently fewer adult birds breeding in 2013. The upland bird index showed no significant change over this period.



For media enquiries only:

Vicki Mowat, press & public relations officer, Scottish Natural Heritage 0131 316 2659 or email or the main Inverness press office on 01463 725 020 or 021.

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. 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

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