Greenfinches disappearing in Northern Ireland

02 May 2019 | No. 2019-13

According to the latest report, published today, Greenfinches in Northern Ireland are in trouble; declining by a massive 75% between 1995 and 2017.

Formerly widespread and a feature at birdfeeders, Greenfinches have been disappearing from Northern Ireland. The latest results from the Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) highlight the true extent of the problem Greenfinches are facing. The main driver of the fall in the population is thought to be the disease Trichomonosis, first emerging in finch populations following spill-over from Woodpigeons.

Greenfinches infected by Trichomonosis may be found around feeders looking unwell, with a lethargic, fluffed-up appearance and may appear wet around the face. There is no cure but it is possible to break the cycle of this disease by disinfecting any birdfeeders and only putting as much food out as the birds will eat in a day – if sick birds persist, feeding should be stopped for a couple of weeks before starting again.

However, it’s not all bad news for birds in Northern Ireland, the Buzzard breeding population increased 14-fold since 1995, Blackbird by 43%, and the breeding populations of both Woodpigeon and Collared Dove doubled.

Sarah Harris, Breeding Bird Survey Organiser at the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), said, “It is often disheartening to read about the declines recorded in birds such as Greenfinch, but there is good news out there for other species. There are things we can all do to help those in trouble and it is certainly uplifting to see there are over 100 volunteers in Northern Ireland willing to give up their time to help monitor their breeding birds. Thank you to all who take part”

Mark Eaton, RSPB Principal Conservation Scientist, said “Knowing how bird populations are increasing or decreasing is fundamental to bird conservation and the long term trends for population changes in this new BBS report are a very important indicator of the health of our countryside. BBS trends shows how our bird populations have fared since 1994 and are used to identify the species most needing conservation help: they are a crucial component of the Birds of Conservation Concern assessments which identify the red list, of species of greatest conservation concern.”

The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey is a partnership jointly funded by the BTO, RSPB and JNCC, and the report is published by BTO annually on behalf of the partnership. Download the  full report.

Contact Details
Sarah Harris
(Breeding Bird Survey Organiser, BTO)

Office: 01842 750050
(9am to 5.30pm)
Email: sarah.harris [at]
Paul Stancliffe
(Media Manager)

Office: 01842 750050
Mobile: 07585 440910
(Mon-Thurs 9am to 5.30pm) (Fri 9am to 5pm)
Email: press [at]

Shane Wolsey
(Oversees the BBS for the BTO in Northern Ireland)

Home: 02891 467 947
Email: shane.wolsey [at]

Kathryn Cochrane

kathryn.cochrane [at]

Images are available for use alongside this News Release. Please contact images [at] quoting reference April 2019-13
The BTO has an ISDN line available for radio interviews. Please contact us to book an interview Office: 01842 750050

Notes for Editors

  • Population trends for 37 bird species in Northern Ireland have been calculated in the latest BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) annual report. BBS is the main scheme for monitoring the population changes of the UK’s common breeding birds.
  • In 2018, 118 BBS squares were covered in Northern Ireland by volunteers. We are grateful to the Northern Ireland Environment Agency who fundedprofessional fieldworkers to cover 52 squares in Northern Ireland and, along with the BTO, funded training courses with the aim of increasing coverage in Northern Ireland.
  • The latest report can be found here
  • The Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) Partnership: The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey is a partnership jointly funded by the BTO, RSPB and JNCC, with fieldwork conducted by volunteers.
  • The BTO/JNCC/RSPB Breeding Bird Survey (BBS) is a UK-wide project aimed at keeping track of changes in the breeding populations of widespread bird species. The BBS involves around 2,700 participants who survey more than 4,000 sites across the UK, enabling us to monitor the population changes of 117 bird species. Knowing to what extent bird populations are increasing or decreasing is fundamental to bird conservation.
  • This important survey is carried out by volunteer birdwatchers throughout the UK, who receive no financial reward or expenses for their efforts. We are indebted to them for their tremendous support.
  • The BTO is the UK's leading bird research organisation. Up to 60,000 birdwatchers contribute to the BTO's surveys. They collect information that forms the basis of conservation action in the UK. The BTO maintains a staff of 100 at its offices in Thetford, Stirling, Bangor (Wales) and Bangor (Northern Ireland), who analyse and publicise the results of project work. The BTO's investigations are funded by government, industry and conservation organisations.

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