Which of East Anglia’s birds are the winners and losers from climate change?
PUBLISHED: 11:26 05 September 2019 | UPDATED: 13:08 05 September 2019
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Climate change is affecting more than a third of our breeding bird populations, according to new research – with more winners than losers emerging from the warmer winters.
The study by the Thetford-based British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and government conservation agency Natural England looks at data collected from 50 years of "citizen science" surveys.
Of the 68 species monitored between 1966 and 2015, the report says 24 showed evidence that changes in their population were linked to temperature or rainfall - leading to notable increases in some and declines in a few.
The study says 13 species including corn buntings, goldcrests and long-tailed tits saw a boost in their populations of at least 10pc as a result of changing climatic conditions, such as warmer winter temperatures.
But three species - cuckoo, little owls and reed warblers - saw numbers fall by at least 10pc as a result of climate change.
Although acknowledging climate change is "widely regarded as a major threat to the functioning of natural systems" such as the timing of breeding and migration, the paper published in the journal Bird Study says warmer winter temperatures have a positive effect on population growth for some resident species, probably by improving survival rates over the winter.
And some species which have seen long-term population declines, but which prefer warmer conditions - such as farmland birds including the corn bunting and grey partridge - may have seen less significant falls than they would have done without climate change, the study suggests.
The data used in the study comes from the BTO common bird census and from the breeding bird survey run by the BTO, Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the RSPB, whose fieldwork is conducted by volunteers. This was compared with changes in the climate in terms of seasonal temperatures and rainfall.
James Pearce-Higgins, director of science at the BTO and the paper's lead author, said: "Given the changeable British weather, it can be difficult for us to see the long-term impacts of climate change, but by monitoring bird populations we can track impacts upon the natural environment.
"Thanks to the efforts of our volunteer bird surveyors who have been counting birds in England for over 50 years, we can show that climate change is already affecting about one-third of breeding bird populations monitored.
"While some of these impacts have resulted in population increases, as harsh winters which naturally limit the populations of some resident species have become less common through time, there are also species which appear to have declined too."