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Birds: Conservation

Volume 458: debated on Thursday 22 March 2007

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs how many of the individuals and organisations consulted in the current review of Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 are (a) bird keepers, (b) bird watchers, (c) bird keeping clubs, (d) bird watching clubs, (e) falconry centres or zoos, (f) raptor study groups (field ornithologists), (g) bird keeping magazines, (h) bird watching magazines and (i) conservation organisations. (126924)

It is impossible to state with any accuracy the percentages of individuals and organisations consulted. In accordance with best practice for such public consultations, my officials aimed the distribution at the major organisations which represented all of the groups of bird watching, bird conservation, rescue centres, bird keepers, zoos and enforcement authorities. These in turn were able to use their membership lists to circulate the details of the consultation more widely. The consultation document was also available via the DEFRA website.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what assessment he has made of the effectiveness of (a) the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) controls and (b) bird registration under section 7 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 in tracing and reliably identifying the provenance of individual birds. (126925)

The convention on international trade in endangered species (CITES) controls and bird registration controls relate to different activities and species. Where the controls are duplicated, as is the case with many species of diurnal birds of prey, assessing their relative effectiveness in tracing and identifying the provenance of individual birds is very difficult.

In general terms, bird registration achieves nothing in identifying the provenance of individual birds as there are no legal powers to assess the captive bred status under section 7 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. It does however give powers to trace where individual birds are kept.

CITES controls provide the powers needed to inquire into breeding status, but do not enable the tracing of individual birds, unless there is a specific conservation reason to do so and an element of commercial activity is involved.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what criteria and methodology are used to assess the sustainability of wild bird species levels. (126926)

In England, the principal method used to assess wild bird population levels is the analysis of trends for the wild bird indicators compiled for the England biodiversity strategy (EBS) and the farmland bird public service agreement (PSA).

Indices for individual bird species are based on the annual field counts of breeding birds compiled by the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO), Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). These individual indices are then compiled to show the average population trends with separate indicators compiled for farmland, woodland, wetland and sea birds. The EBS indicator compiles indices for 96 species, 19 of which are used in the farmland bird PSA indicator.

The assessment for the EBS indicator is based on the percentage change in the combined index since 2000 (and is currently assessed as stable). The assessment for the PSA indicator is based on the annual rate of change in the long-term trend—to which is applied a statistical technique that removes short-term peaks and troughs due to weather or gaps in the data. The farmland birds target will be met when the annual percentage change in the 'smoothed' long-term trend is positive. As with the EBS indicator, the trend was assessed as stable in 2006.

Further information on the methodology and criteria used in the assessment for farmland bird PSA targets can be found in the following report: “Freeman, S.F., Baillie, S.R. and Gregory, R.D. 2001. Statistical Analyses of an Indicator of Population Trends in Farmland Birds”.

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what proportion of bird rings used by keepers of birds listed on Schedule 4 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 were supplied by (a) keepers and (b) his Department. (126931)

There are 9,584 registered birds, of which 280 are registered with rings not supplied by my Department. The latter figure includes birds which have had rings fitted in other countries before they were imported into the UK. Under current regulations, only keepers in Wales may supply their own rings. There are approximately 60 birds registered in this way.