Scottish woodland bird numbers on the rise again

Wren in Scotland
The wren is on the increase again in Scotland after the harsh Beast from the East winter. (Image credit: Lorne Gill)

A report by NatureScot reveals hope for woodland birds in Scotland after a decline in previous years.

Harsh winter weather caused by the “Beast from the East” was linked to a 12% decrease in woodland birds between 2017 and 2018.

Now the new statistics show woodland bird numbers have returned to a more stable position. 

The same is true for farmland birds, although upland birds continue to show a long-term decline.

The survey was published by Scotland's nature agency, NatureScot, which tracks the abundance of Scotland’s terrestrial breeding birds.

The 2019 results indicate a rapid recovery for wren and goldcrest, two of the woodland species most affected by the harsh Beast from the East conditions, with numbers of both up by more than 20%.

Simon Foster, NatureScot Trends and Indicators Analyst, said: “Bird populations typically fluctuate year-on-year but it’s encouraging to see that the recent dip in the fortunes of our woodland birds due to the harsh winter of 2017/18 appears to have been reversed in these latest figures.

“Climate change is also having an effect with evidence of some species, such as the willow warbler, shifting northwards and increases in Scotland accompanied by declines further south.

“The picture is mixed however, with some woodland species such as the treecreeper continuing to decline.

“Winter can be a tough time for birds and people can do their bit to help wildlife during the colder months by putting out extra food and providing shelter in their gardens.”

The longer-term trend for woodland birds is positive, showing an increase of 59% between 1994 and 2019.

Some of the species with the biggest increases include chiffchaff, great spotted woodpecker and blackcap.

For hints and tips on how to help birds in winter see a NatureScot guide.

Fiona Russell
Outdoor writer

Fiona Russell is a widely published adventure journalist and blogger, better known as Fiona Outdoors. She is based in Scotland and is an all-round outdoors enthusiast with favorite activities including trail running, mountain walking, mountain biking, road cycling, triathlon and skiing (both downhill and backcountry). Aside from her own adventures, Fiona's biggest aim is to inspire others to enjoy getting outside and exploring, especially through her writing. She is also rarely seen without a running skort! Find out more at Fiona Outdoors.