Kestrel population plunges by a third

One of the UK's most familiar birds of prey, the kestrel, has drastically declined in numbers, a survey of British birds reveals today. The latest Breeding Birds Survey shows that the number of kestrels, which are often seen hovering over roads looking for small rodents, plunged by 36 per cent between 2008 and 2009.

The collapse came on top of a long-term decline in which the kestrel population fell by a fifth between 1995 and 2008, according to the survey by the British Trust for Ornithology.

Numbers had already fallen between the 1970s and 1990s – largely, it is thought, because intensive agriculture reduced the habitats of small mammals which the birds prey on – but the reasons for more recent declines are unclear.