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Woodland management for birds

WOODCOCK ON NESTFarm and woodland birds have been in steady decline since the 1960s. Some of these, such as the Lesser-Spotted Woodpecker, Spotted Flycatcher and Willow Tit, have declined more than 50%.

Wild birds are considered as a good indicator of the general state of the health of the wider environment.

What can we do to prevent further decline?

By encouraging active woodland management we can help increase populations. The most beneficial operations include:

  • thinning to let more light and enhance the understorey;
  • increasing standing and felled deadwood;
  • reinstating and widening rides;
  • deer management.

These actions help to produce a more varied vegetation structure, increasing the number of insects on which birds feed and creating more nest sites for them. These activities are carried out in Forestry Commission woodland, but 80% of England's woodlands are owned by others and around half of them are not actively managed.

What grants are available from the Forestry Commission?

Together with the RSPB, the Woodland Bird Project is aiming to reverse this decline by providing financial support to landowners and managers to improve woodland habitat for birds. The RSPB have identified hotspot areas and four of our Regions are offering grant support to applicants within the Woodland Bird Project area. Our woodland officers and RSPB staff can help advise on the best activities.

The two main areas of support are:

For existing woodlands the Woodland Improvement Grant, offering 80% contribution to work that improves the habitat for woodland birds

For creation of new woodlands, a supplement to our Woodland Creation Grant is available in a priority area to specifically benefit one of the vulnerable species.

The following Regions offer these grants:

If you are not in one of our Woodland Bird Priority areas you can still help improve the habitat and population of woodland birds by creating new woodland and improving your woodland management. Contact your Regional office or view their web pages to see what you could do in your woodland.


Last updated: 13th February 2018