Big Farmland Bird Count – results of the 2022 survey

18 May 2022

Environment
A picture of a starling

Starlings were one of the most abundant red-listed species to be spotted during the 2022 Big Farmland Bird Count

Despite the challenging conditions, more than 1,900 farmers and land managers took part in the 2022 GWCT (Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust) Big Farmland Bird Count. Take a look at the results.

The annual nationwide survey, organised by the GWCT and sponsored by the NFU for the past four years, provided a vital snapshot of the health of our cherished farmland birds by taking part in the count, between 4 – 20 February. 

The weather did its best to hamper efforts with two major storms hitting during the count.

But dedicated farmers and gamekeepers braved the conditions to spot 130 species across more than 1.5million acres (607,000 hectares).

The results

Over 420,000 individual birds were counted in the survey, which is now in its ninth year.

An impressive 26 red-listed species were recorded, with seven among the 25 most frequently seen species.

Of these, starlings, lapwings, fieldfares, and linnets were the four most abundant red-listed species to be spotted, with over 125,000 counted, which equates to 29% of all species recorded.

The most commonly seen species were blackbirds and woodpigeons, sighted by over 71% of participants.

More than 63% saw robins, carrion crows and pheasants.

The five most abundant birds seen were woodpigeons, starlings, lapwings, fieldfares and rooks, with a total of 204,398 spotted in total, which equates to 48% of all the  birds counted.

Farmers commitment to bird conservation

The areas covered during the survey included important environmental features such as hedges, woodland edges, ponds, grass margins, wild bird cover, ditches and trees.

A picture of Minette Batters

“I’m delighted that so many farmers responded to this year’s count despite the disruption of the stormy weather throughout February which hit the entire country.

“Although Britain’s farmers are focused on the importance of producing the nation’s food, they are passionate about protecting the countryside, and the results from the latest Big Farmland Bird Count provide a fantastic snapshot of the huge amount of work being carried out on our farms to encourage wildlife.”

NFU President Minette Batters

GWCT’s Dr Roger Draycott, who organised the count, said:

“The Big Farmland Bird Count shows that farmers are not only on the frontline of the country’s ever more important food security, but also its conservation efforts. 

“The count highlights the commitment of land managers to not only undertake farmland wildlife conservation measures, but also to record and evaluate the benefits of that vital work.” 

Above: A male lapwing

Continued support

“Although the total numbers of participants is down a little after the extraordinary growth we saw in 2021 (up 65% in one year) we have continued to see a steady rise since we started the count in 2014, allowing us to build a vital picture of the health of our farmland bird species.

“I think this year’s dip is probably due to a combination of the dreadful weather in February, the nationwide lockdown during last year’s survey period which encouraged people to get out and count, and the unprecedented pressures currently facing farmers.

“I would like to thank everyone who submitted a count return, as well as the NFU for sponsoring the GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count and the many organisations which support us in running it each year.”

An infographic showing the results of the 2022 Big Farmland Bird Count

How does the count work?

The GWCT Big Farmland Bird Count asks farmers and land managers to spend 30 minutes recording the bird species they see on their land as part of an annual nationwide survey which helps to identify any species which are struggling.

The count is a simple way for farmers and gamekeepers to assess the natural capital on farm, an increasing requirement under the government’s Environmental Land Management scheme, and to chart the effects of any conservation they carry out.

Completing it year after year can help to establish the biodiversity gains from long-term conservation efforts.

The scheme was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland birds.

More statistics from the 2022 count

  • 37% of participants are in some form of agri-environment scheme, demonstrating their long-term commitment to environmental management.
  • 39% of those taking part were providing some form of extra seed feed for birds.
  • The average farm size of those taking part was 948 acres (384 hectares).

Responses from across the United Kingdom

  • Norfolk topped the leader board for the fourth year with 141 completed survey results.
  • Hampshire and North Yorkshire came in second and third place with 80 and 78 counts respectively.
  • Wiltshire and Suffolk cam joint fourth with 75 counts each.
  • Responses also came from Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

Biodiversity

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