Why British birds are under threat and how you can help

5 February 2019

Image from: rspb-images.com

British birds have been in gradual decline for the last few decades, but the loss of species has dropped dramatically in recent years, with some species falling by up to 95%. Here’s more about why Britain’s birds are under threat and what you can do to help.

Why are British birds under threat?

There are a number of reasons why British birds have become endangered in recent years. But ultimately, birds are losing their habitats due to the devastation to the environment caused by humans – particularly due to changes in agriculture.

Population growth, transport, intensive farming, and a demand for cheap mass produced goods, all contribute to the decline of British wildlife. 


Intensive farming is one of the biggest causes of biodiversity decline in the UK. Farming land makes up 70% of the British countryside, which means there’s less woodland and forest for birds to thrive. 

Hedgerows are being decimated across the UK – which has also resulted in the decline of our hedgehog population – and land is given less time to replenish between crop harvesting.

An increase in insecticides and chemical fertilisers have not only wiped out many of the insects our native birds feed on; they’ve also poisoned birds who accidentally ingest the chemicals.

Oil pollution

Most of us know that oil pollution caused by spillages at sea can be fatal to many of our coastal birds. But did you know that pouring cooking oil and fat down your sink can also harm birds?

The oil can congeal and damage birds’ feathers, which affects their ability to stay warm. It can cause pipe blockages, resulting in low level flooding and habitat destruction. And it can become rancid and breed diseases which are fatal to birds and other wildlife.

Artificial gardens

The way we design our gardens has a huge impact on the survival of British birds. In recent years, natural lawns and hedges have been replaced with artificial turf, decking, and gravel –  which means there’s less land for birds to nest in, and they have less access to food.


With more transport on our roads than ever before, birds are more at risk of being injured or killed by passing cars. Birds like ducks and geese, who lead their young across roads to find water, are particularly at risk.

Some areas of the country are even attaching anti-bird spikes to tree branches, in order to protect parked cars from the erosive properties of bird droppings. This drives pigeons and other city dwelling birds away from their habitats.  


While the RSPB have reported little evidence to suggest that fireworks cause any harm to wild birds, setting off fireworks near nesting sites can cause disturbances. The Wildlife and Countryside Act makes it illegal to intentionally disturb protected birds while they’re nesting – you can find a full list on the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) website.

Photo Credit: Lisa Louise Greenhorn (rspb-images.com)

How to make your garden friendly for birds

One of the simplest ways to help the British bird population is to make your garden as bird friendly as you can. You don’t have to spend lots of money to attract local wildlife, but with a bit of consideration you could turn your back garden into a haven for birds:

  • Lawn. Ditch the gravel, paving slabs and decking and opt for a natural patch of lawn instead. And if you can let part of your lawn grow wild, even better – it’s perfect to attract insects and bugs for birds to feed on.
  • Shelter. Birds need shelter from the elements and somewhere to nest when it’s time to lay their eggs. You could build a bird house for your garden, or buy one from a local garden centre.
  • Food. Birds love insects and worms, but there’s lots you can put out for them too. Install a bird feeding station in your garden and fill it with peanuts, seeds, and raisins. You could even make a homemade bird feeder out of a recycled bottle, or give these homemade bird treats a go.
  • Water. It’s really important to leave clean drinking water out for the birds in your garden, so invest in a bird bath or leave a shallow dish of water on your bird feeder.

Here’s more information on how you can make your garden friendly for birds.

How to help injured birds

The best way to help an injured bird is to contact your local bird rescue. In most cases, this’ll be the RSPCA, but you can find local bird rescues in your area on the Help Wildlife website. It may be possible to move an injured bird away from immediate danger if it’s small, but it’s best to contact an expert.

Image credit: rspb-images.com

How to help birds in the wild

Britain’s birds are facing unprecedented habitat loss, but there are plenty of ways you can help British birds to thrive in the wild:

  • Buy organic vegetables and fruit. In order to restore the biodiversity of soil around Britain, it’s important to avoid vegetables and fruit grown using insecticides and chemical fertilisers. This helps insect life, which offer a regular supply of food for birds. Try to buy organic at the supermarket, or grow your own veg at home.
  • Take part in the RSPB Big Garden Birdwatch. It’s the world’s largest survey of birds and wildlife, and it’s a great way to get children interested in the different varieties of common garden birds. You can find out more on the RSPB website.
  • Cut down on transport. It’s better for the environment as a whole to avoid using your car when you can. Walk, cycle, and make use of public transport wherever possible, and you’re less likely to disrupt the habitats of local wildlife.
  • Recycle. Seabirds are particularly at risk from ingesting plastic that’s washed out or dumped at sea, so try to cut your plastic use where possible, and be sure to recycle any plastic you do use.

A big part of our work at Ecotricity is making space for nature. Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter for regular tips on how you can give nature a helping hand.

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