Some of Sussex’s most familiar countryside birds are in sharp decline, a new report has revealed.

Cuckoos and mistle thrushes are among those that have seen numbers drop hugely in the past decade, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The charity released its State of the UK’s Birds report yesterday and said some species were experiencing ‘plummeting population declines’ compared with the 1990s.

Cuckoos have seen a decline of 71% in the county since 1994, compared to a drop of 50% nationally.


And mistle thrushes have dropped in number by 91% since 1994.

A spokesman for the RSPB said it was unclear what was causing such huge declines in these species.

A section of the report looks at the UK’s 107 most widespread and common breeding birds.

Of these species, 16 have declined by more than one third since 1995, including willow tit, starling, cuckoo, lapwing, whinchat and wood warbler.

Many of these species are reliant on habitats in the socalled ‘wider countryside’ rather than being maintained on special sites, such as nature reserves, But there was some good news with corn buntings, a farmland bird whose population has declined by 34 per cent since 1995 but the drop has been far less in the south than elsewhere.

The atlas shows the corn bunting’s distribution has contracted by 56% over the last 40 years and the species is now extinct in Ireland.

At WWT Arundel Wetland Centre, numbers of snipe and lapwing have increased due to a concerted effort with the development of a wet grassland habitat in 2011.

Grounds manager Paul Stevens said: “In spring of 2010 before the project we only had two pairs of lapwing breed on the reserve.

“In the spring of 2013 we had at least eight pairs of lapwing successfully nesting across the wet grassland.

“The wet grassland habitat was created to attract lapwing, redshank and snipe to nest on the WWT wetland reserve in spring and summer.”