Britain’s population of nightingales has fallen by 90% in the last 40 years
1. Britain’s population of nightingales has fallen by 90% in the last 40 years. Nightingales have never been common in Britain. They are here for a few months and only sing for a few weeks, from late April to early June, so opportunities this year to hear their wonderful song have been lost, and the chances for next and following years are dwindling seriously. They confine their occupancy, when they are here, to southern Britain, roughly south and east of a line between the Severn and the Wash, with strongholds in East Anglia and Kent, but numbers are falling rapidly even here.
2. The British Trust for Ornithology has recently published warnings of decline. Nightingales are birds of the undergrowth; they nest in dense, inaccessible shrub. This is one reason why their song is so celebrated, for actually seeing this skulking songster is often virtually impossible. Recently, however, this habitat has been under threat owing to a boom in numbers of deer, especially muntjacs, an alien incomer. Muntjacs feed by browsing, and their insatiable appetite has destroyed much of the nightingale’s scrubby home.
3. Like other migrant birds that overwinter in west Africa, the nightingale’s numbers have fallen steeply, “probably due to the southward extension of the Sahara desert. Next year’s spring may be the last before its extraordinary song can no more be heard in Britain.”