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14 January, 2021

Statistical News Release: Index of Abundance for Scottish Terrestrial Breeding Birds, 1994 to 2019

An Official Statistics Publication for Scotland

NatureScot has today released the latest figures tracking the abundance of Scotland’s terrestrial breeding birds.

Over the long term (1994-2019), the combined abundance for 66 species of terrestrial breeding bird increased steadily till the mid-2000s, and is currently 14% higher than in 1994 (using the smoothed indices). Since the mid-2000s the abundance declined to fluctuate between 14% and 17% above the 1994 index value.

Over the short term (2018-2019), using the unsmoothed indices, the ‘all species’, farmland, woodland and upland bird indices were stable, i.e. have not changed more than 5% since last reported.

Analysis of habitat specific trends did show some change over the long term: the woodland bird index increased by 59%; the farmland bird index increased steadily up to the late-2000s, and in 2019 it was 14% higher than in 1994; and upland birds decreased by 18% over the same period. The trends differ between species and may be due to factors on the breeding areas in Scotland or, for migratory birds such as whitethroat, conditions on migration routes or in wintering areas. Climate change is affecting some bird populations with evidence of birds shifting northwards (e.g. willow warbler).

Contact information

NatureScot Media
0131 316 2655

Notes to editors

The full statistical publication can be accessed at:

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.

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) ( )

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

NatureScot is Scotland's nature agency. We work to enhance our natural environment in Scotland and inspire everyone to care more about it. Our priority is a nature-rich future for Scotland and an effective response to the climate emergency. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

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