What’s happened to all our whinchats?

There has been a 47 per cent range contraction since the early 1970s. Mike Toms from the BTO explains why. 


Whinchat © Mike Lane / Getty


The loss of the whinchat from much of its former breeding range is one of the most striking patterns to emerge from Bird Atlas 2007–11. 

The bulk of these losses have been from lowland sites and there is a real sense that the species is becoming increasingly confined to the upland margins of Wales, Scotland and northern England.

Breeding populations are still present on Dartmoor, Exmoor and Salisbury Plain, where they are being studied by researchers seeking to understand the decrease in the bird’s population.

Declines were first noted after the Second World War and were thought to be a response to agricultural intensification and the associated loss of marginal habitats rich in favoured invertebrate prey. 

The problem has accelerated since 1990 and there is concern that whinchats might also be facing difficulties on their wintering grounds and during migration. There has been widespread, but moderate, decline elsewhere across Europe since about 1980.


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