February 2021 saw the eighth annual Big Farmland Bird Count (BFBC) organised by the Game & Wildlife Conservation Trust, with record numbers of participants taking part.

Over 1,800 farmers took part and recorded more than 130 species across 2.5 million acres. That’s more farmers than in any previous year.

The BFBC was launched in 2014 to highlight the positive work done by farmers and gamekeepers in helping to reverse the decline in farmland bird numbers. The count offers a simple means of recording the effect of any conservation work currently being instigated by farmers and gamekeepers on their land, such as scatter feeding birds through winter or growing crops specifically to provide seed for birds.

What did farmers see?

The most commonly seen species were blackbirds and robins, seen by over 75% of our participants. Woodpigeons, blue tits and pheasants were seen by over 65% of the farmers. The graph below shows the full list of the 25 most commonly seen species.

At the other end of the scale, we were delighted to see that a total of 25 species from the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern were recorded, with eight appearing in the 25 most frequently seen species list. Starlings, fieldfare, lapwing and linnet were the four most abundant red-listed species recorded, with over 112,000 total spotted, which equates to 22% of all species spotted.

The five most abundant birds seen were woodpigeons, starling, rooks, fieldfare and chaffinch. A total of 190,000 were seen, making up over 37% of the total number of birds recorded.

Eight of the top 25 most abundant species are on the Red List for Birds of Conservation Concern and include: Starling, fieldfare, lapwing, linnet, yellowhammer, redwing, house sparrow and skylark.

Who took part?

The average farm size of those taking part was 1,027 acres.  

48% of participants are in some form of agri-environment scheme, demonstrating their long-term commitment to environmental management.

39% of participants were providing some form of extra seed feed for birds, either through growing wild bird seed mixes, or by providing additional grain through scatter feeding or via hoppers.

Where were participants from?

Farmers from every county in England took part and there were also responses from Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. We also had a number of farmers from Austria take part!

Norfolk had the most returns, with 189 farmers completing the survey. This was followed by Lincolnshire with 131, North Yorkshire with 130, and Hampshire with 118. Our thanks go out to these counties for their huge support.