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NEWS RELEASE No: 1347329 MARCH 2010

New grant scheme to help North West's woodland birds

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pied flycatcher

The Forestry Commission in the North West has launched a new type of grant to encourage landowners to help reverse the decline of the region’s woodland birds.

Financial support is now being offered to local landowners and managers to improve the habitat for 18  vulnerable species, including the Redstart and the Pied Flycatcher. The RSPB is supporting this groundbreaking project across England.

The grants available are part of the Forestry Commission’s English Woodland Grant Scheme, which is supported by European Union and Defra funding. 

Wild birds are a good indicator of the general health of the countryside and they have been chosen as one of the Government's 15 headline indicators of progress towards sustainable development.  

However, the UK’s woodland bird population as a whole has fallen by 20 per cent in the last 25 years and numbers of some species, such as the Lesser Redpoll and Willow Tit, have dropped by more than 90 per cent since 1970. 

Much of the decline is due to changes in the structure of our woodlands, such as the age and diversity of tree species, and long-term under-management. 

Measures which could be funded under the new scheme will include preserving dead trees to provide natural nest sites, coppicing, thinning, controlling grazing levels and creating glades and scrubby areas favoured by many species. Monitoring of the target species will take place to see what difference woodland management makes.

Paul Vickers from the Forestry Commission in the North West, explained:

“The North West region is nationally important for woodland birds.  If we can improve the habitat in these areas, together with other key locations in England, it will significantly boost their fortunes.

“Species like the Redstart and the Pied Flycatcher are woodland specialists and it’s vital we do all we can to protect them.  What we need now is for land managers to step forward and work with us to secure the future of these wonderful birds.”

Underpinning the new initiative is the Bird Conservation Targeting Project, an ambitious mapping project involving the Forestry Commission, RSPB, British Trust for Ornithology and Natural England which has identified breeding “hotspots” for certain species.  These locations will be used to determine grant eligibility and to target help where it is most likely to produce results.

Andrew Gouldstone from the RSPB in the North West said:

“There is strong evidence that under-management of our woodland is driving the severe declines we are seeing in several woodland birds. This grant, because it is well targeted and is designed to deliver the woodland condition these birds need, is a very significant step in bringing about a recovery in their numbers.”

To be eligible for a grant woodland must be within a target area for the chosen species or be supported by local knowledge and expertise. The Bird Conservation Targeting Project data can be found at:

Grant guidance and application forms can be downloaded from the grants section of the Forestry Commission’s North West web pages or by calling Paul Vickers on 01606 324952.

1. An image of a pied flycatcher is attached 

2. The Forestry Commission is the largest provider of countryside recreation in Britain with responsibility for over one million hectares (2.4 million acres) of forest, woodlands and open countryside. The North West Region covers the counties of Cumbria, Lancashire and the Unitary Authorities of the Merseyside & Gt. Manchester conurbation’s and the new Cheshire East and West Authorities.

3. The Forestry Commission is the government department responsible for forestry in Great Britain. It supports woodland owners with grants; tree felling licences, regulation and advice; promotes the benefits of forests and forestry; and advises Government on forestry policy. It manages more than a million hectares (2.5 million acres) of national forest land for public benefits such as sustainable timber production, public recreation, nature conservation, and rural and community development. For further information, visit

Paul Vickers (Woodland Officer) on 01606 324952 or email