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84 species

July 4, 2024
Charlotte Bartleet-Cross

84 species

Our charity name, SongBird Survival sounds quite self-explanatory. But is it that straightforward? Most people's everyday perception of what a songbird is, is different to the scientific meaning. Join us to delve into what a 'songbird' really means, and what is so special about the 84 species we focus on in our work.
Lesser whitethroat

Songbirds are species from the order 'Passeriformes', and are also known as 'Passerines'. Over half of all the world's bird species are passerines, and they are easily distinguished by their feet; with three of their toes pointing forwards, and one pointing backwards. This arrangement allows them to perch on small twigs and branches, and gives them the nickname of 'perching birds'.

Songbirds also have a highly developed voice box, allowing them to sing beautiful and complex songs which enamour the masses. I'm sure many of us can think of a time we have been serenaded by a rogue warbler, blackcap, robin or even a nightingale. The dawn chorus surely would not be the same without our beloved songbirds. However, some species like the jackdaw (and other members of the corvid family) are not known for their melodious song, but are still classified as songbirds, and share many of the same traits as other songbird species.

The main aim of SongBird Survival has always been to reverse, or halt the decline of our UK songbirds. We change the future for songbirds by funding scientific research into why the declines are happening, educating people on the issues and inspiring them to take action to help. Our scientific research programme is now specifically targeted to filling conservation evidence gaps relating to 84 key species of true songbirds.

Although over 250 songbird species have been recorded in the UK, less than half occur on a regular basis, with several only recorded once or twice. Of these, only 84 species breed annually in the UK. These 84 species are the focus of our research, as we try to maximise our impact as a charity by changing their lives, one by one.

Within our 84, we have many green-listed species like the wren and the robin, as we strive to 'keep our common birds common', by continuing to support them with our research. The larger number of our focus however, is in amber and red-listed species which are currently declining (or have been in decline) and are of conservation concern. Over 50% of the species that we cover are at risk, and we don't know the driving factors behind these declines. By committing to fund research into these birds of conservation concern, we commit to spread awareness of the issues, find solutions and attempt to halt the decline of these dwindling species.

Many of these species have undergone very steep declines in the UK, such as the willow tit (decreases of 85%), and the wood warbler (76% decrease). Several of the species we are interested in are also not monitored extensively by the BTO, such as the cirl bunting, hawfinch, marsh warbler and ring ouzel and therefore, the true population levels are not known for these species.

To find out more about our upcoming research projects, click here. You can find out more on all of our 84 species linked in our songbird A-Z or on our bird numbers page where we detail the latest trends in populations and their current alert statuses.

The SBS Team

If you are a supporter of our charity and you have ideas for blog posts you would like to see and topics you would like us to cover on #theSBSblog, please contact us at or our Research and Engagement Manager at

** Stanbury et al. 2021

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