Fewer birds, including nightingales and cuckoos, are migrating between Europe and Africa due to combined factors of habitat loss, hunting and climate change.
Bird populations that make the great journey between northern Europe and Africa – including the nightingale and turtle dove – are drastically declining, conservationists have warned.
Nearly half of the 29 summer migrants, who appear in the UK in spring to breed before returning in the autumn, show long-term population declines.
The nightingale, famed for its song and for inspiring English poets, is one of a group of birds that spend winter in the African humid zone of Sierra Leone, Senegal, the Gambia and Burkina Faso that are suffering particularly badly.
Of this group of 11 humid zone species, eight are declining in number.
Other migrants that spend winter in Africa, such as cuckoos, whinchats and spotted flycatchers, are being found in the UK at half the number they were two decades ago.
The birds face pressures in the UK, on their journey between continents and in Africa too, the annual State of the UK’s Birds report by the RSPB and seven other nature organisations shows. It is the first time the report has grouped the health of birds by their migration strategies.
In the UK, birds have lost habitat to farmland and housing. Nightingales and other species are under threat from rising deer numbers, as the deer browse on young woodland.