The first swallows have made landfall in the UK, fanning out over the greening landscape. The early arrivals, generally males, are a streak of electric blue in the spring sunshine.
These heralds of a new season were once common on the agricultural lowlands of Europe and North America, but many species of farmland bird are in trouble. In the UK, 19 of these species declined by almost half between the 1970s and the late 2000s, as agricultural efforts intensified and vast fields of pesticide-drenched crops replaced a patchwork of meadows, woodland and pasture.
The insects these birds eat have also declined. With fewer habitats and less food, the UK’s turtle dove population has fallen by 98% since 1970 while grey partridge numbers are down by 91% on 1967 levels. Swallow populations are holding up, but fluctuate from year to year. MORE
Header image: farm ponds can offer a vital food source to struggling bird species. Credit: Bkp/Shutterstock.