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Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Conservation charity
Founded 1889 (1889)
Headquarters The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, England

2 Lochside View, Edinburgh, Scotland
Area served United Kingdom
Key people Template:Plainlist
Revenue Increase £88.28 million GBP (2006)[1]
Operating income Increase £69.7 million GBP (2006)[1]
Net income Decrease £3.68 million GBP (2006)[1]
Employees Template:Plainlist

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) is a charitable organisation registered in England and Wales[2] and in Scotland.[3] It was founded as the Plumage League in 1889 by Emily Williamson. It works to promote conservation and protection of birds and the wider environment through public awareness campaigns, petitions and through the operation of nature reserves throughout the United Kingdom.[4]

The RSPB has 2,000 employees, 17,600 volunteers and more than 1 million members (including 150,000 youth members), making it the largest wildlife conservation charity in Europe.[5] The RSPB has many local groups and maintains 200 nature reserves.[6]


The Plumage LeagueTemplate:Sfnp was founded in 1889 by Emily Williamson at her house in Didsbury, Manchester, (now in Fletcher Moss Botanical Garden),[7] as a protest group campaigning against the use of great crested grebe and kittiwake skins and feathers in fur clothing. The group gained popularity and eventually amalgamated with the Fur and Feather League in Croydon to form the RSPB.[8]

The original members of the RSPB were all women who campaigned against the fashion of the time for women to wear exotic feathers in hats, and to this end the Society had two simple rules:[8]

  • That Members shall discourage the wanton destruction of Birds, and interest themselves generally in their protection
  • That Lady-Members shall refrain from wearing the feathers of any bird not killed for purposes of food, the ostrich only excepted.
    —RSPB rules, 1899

At the time of founding, the trade in plumage for use in hats was very large: in the first quarter of 1884, almost 7,000 bird-of-paradise skins were being imported to Britain, along with 0.4 million birds from West India and Brazil, and 0.36 million birds from East India.Template:Sfnp

The Society attracted support from some women of high social standing who belonged to the social classes that popularised the wearing of feathered hats, including the Duchess of Portland (who became the Society's first President) and the Ranee of Sarawak. As the organisation began to attract the support of many other influential figures, both male and female, such as the ornithologist Professor Alfred Newton, it gained in popularity and attracted many new members. The society received a Royal Charter in 1904 from Edward VII, and was instrumental in petitioning the Parliament of the United Kingdom to introduce laws banning the use of plumage in clothing.[7]

At the time that the Society was founded in Britain, similar societies were also founded in other European countries.Template:Sfnp[which?] In 1961, the society acquired The Lodge in Sandy, Bedfordshire as its new headquarters.[7]


Today, the RSPB works with both the civil service and the Government to advise Government policies on conservation and environmentalism.[9] It is one of several organisations that determine the official conservation status list for all birds found in the UK.


The RSPB maintains over 200 reserves throughout the United Kingdom,[6] covering a wide range of habitats, from estuaries and mudflats to urban habitats.[10] The reserves often have bird hides provided for birdwatchers and many provide visitor centres, which include information about the wildlife that can be seen there.[11]


The RSPB confers awards, including the President's Award, for volunteers who make a notable contribution to the work of the society.

RSPB Medal

The RSPB say:

The RSPB Medal is the Society's most prestigious award. It is presented to an individual in recognition of wild bird protection and countryside conservation. It is usually awarded annually to one or occasionally two people.[12]

Recipients of the medal, first awarded in 1908,[13] include:


The RSPB has published a members-only magazine for over a century.

Bird Notes

Bird Notes  
Cover of Autumn 1946 issue of Bird Notes, Vol. 23, No. 3
Discipline Ornithology
Language English
Publication details
Publisher RSPB (United Kingdom)
Publication history 1903 (1903)-1966
ISSN 0406-3392

Bird Notes and News (ISSN 0406-3392) was first published in April 1903.

The title changed to Bird Notes in 1947. In the 1950s, there were four copies per year (one for each season, published on the 1st of each third month, March, June, September and December). Each volume covered two years, spread over three calendar years. For example, volume XXV (25), number one was dated Winter 1951, and number eight in the same volume was dated Autumn 1953.

From the mid-1950s, many of the covers were by Charles Tunnicliffe. Two of the originals are on long-term loan to the Tunnicliffe gallery at Oriel Ynys Môn, but in 1995 the RSPB sold 114 at a Sotheby's auction, raising £210,000, the most expensive being a picture of a partridge which sold for £6,440.[19]

From January 1964 (vol. 31, no. 1), publication increased to six per year, (issued in the odd-numbered months, January, March and so on, but dated "January–February", "March–April", etc.). Volumes again covered two years, so vol. 30, covering 1962–63, therefore included nine issues, ending with the "Winter 1963–64" edition instead of eight. The final edition, vol. 31 no. 12, was published in late 1965.


  • Miss M. G. Davies, BA, MBOU (for many years, until vol. 30 no. 9)
  • John Clegg (from vol. 31 No. 1 – vol. 31 no. 3)
  • Jeremy Boswell (from vol. 31 no. 4 – vol. 31 no. 12)


Discipline Ornithology
Language English
Edited by Mark Ward
Publication details
Publisher RSPB (United Kingdom)
Publication history 1966 (1966)–2013 (2013)
Frequency Quarterly
ISSN 1367-983X
  • Journal homepage

Bird Notes' successor Birds (ISSN 1367-983X) replaced it immediately, with volume 1, number 1 being the January–February 1966 edition. Issues were published quarterly, numbered so that a new volume started every other year.

The Autumn 2013 edition, dated August-October 2013, being vol. 25 no. 7, was the last.[20]


Birds had eleven credited editors during its 47-year, 199 edition run. There were some dual editorships at times of change-over.

  • Jeremy Boswell (vol. 1 no.1 – vol. 1 no. 6)
  • Michael Everett (vol. 1 no. 6 and vol. 1 no. 7)
  • Nicholas Hammond (vol. 1 no. 7 – vol. 5 no. 6)
  • Gerald Searle (vol. 5 no. 7 – vol. 6 no. 5)
  • Nicholas Hammond (vol. 6 no. 6 – vol. 6 no. 9)
  • No editor credited (vol. 7 no. 1 – vol. 8 no. 5)
  • Sylvia Sullivan (vol. 8 no. 6 – vol. 10 no. 2)
  • Nicholas Hammond (vol. 10 no. 3 – vol. 11 no. 1)
  • Annette Preece ("Managing Editor", vol. 11 no. 2 – vol. 12 no. 4)
  • Rob Hume (vol. 12 no. 5 – vol. 22 no. 7)
  • Sarah Brennan (vol. 22 no. 7 – vol. 23 no. 3)
  • Mark Ward (vol. 23 no. 3 – vol. 25 no. 7)

Nature's Home

Nature's Home  
Discipline Ornithology
Language English
Edited by Mark Ward
Publication details
Publisher RSPB (United Kingdom)
Publication history 2013 (2013)–present
Frequency Quarterly
  • Journal homepage

In Winter 2013 Birds was replaced by a new magazine, Nature's Home.[21] The editor was Mark Ward.[22] The magazine had an ABC-certified circulation of 600,885.[22]

Junior divisions

The RSPB has two separate groups for children and teenagers: Wildlife Explorers (founded in 1943 as the Junior Bird Recorders' Club; from 1965–2000 the Young Ornithologists Club or YOC[7]) and RSPB Phoenix. Wildlife Explorers is targeted at children aged between 8 and 12, although it also has some younger members,[23] and has two different magazines: Wild Times for the under 8s and Bird Life for those over 8. RSPB Phoenix is aimed at teenagers, and produces Wingbeat magazine, although members also receive Bird Life magazine.[24] The RSPB is a member of The National Council for Voluntary Youth Services.[25]

Big Garden Birdwatch

RSPB organises bird record data collection in annual collective birdwatching days in Britain. RSPB claims this is the "world's biggest wildlife survey" and helps that society to get a better knowledge on bird population trends in Britain.[26] That activity was launched in 1979 as an activity for kids, although from 2001 is a survey open to adults too. In 2011 over 600,000 people took part, being only 37% RSPB's members. The usual date for this birdwatching collective activity is the January's last weekend. From the start of this annual survey records for sparrows show a decline of 60%, while starling population's decline is about 80% from 1979 to 2012.[26]

State of Nature Report

In 2013 the RSBP and a collaborative partnership of 25 UK conservation and research organisations published the first United Kingdom

The report encompasses the islands of the UK and overseas territories, and provides a number of possible reasons for the cited declines, including for climate change, intensive farming methods, and habitat degradation. It is hoped that the report will increase public awareness and promote conservation measures and government policy locally and nationally.[28]


The RSPB is funded primarily by its members; in 2006, over 50% of the society's £88 million income came from subscriptions, donations and legacies, worth a total of £ 53.669 million.[1] As a registered charity, the organisation is entitled to gift aid worth an extra £0.28 on every £1.00 donated by income tax payers.[29] The bulk of the income (£63.757 million in 2006) is spent on conservation projects, maintenance of the reserves and on education projects, with the rest going on fundraising efforts and reducing the pension deficit, worth £19.8 million in 2006.


Chief officers

Over time, the organisation's chief officers have been given different titles.

  • William Henry Hudson – Chairman of Committee 1894
  • Sir Montagu Sharpe, KBE DL – Chairman of Committee 1895–1942
  • Phillip Brown
  • Peter Conder OBE – Secretary 1963. Director 1964–1975
  • Ian Prestt CBE – Director General 1975–1991
  • Barbara Young – CEO 1991–1998
  • Sir Graham Wynne – CEO 1998–2010
  • Mike Clarke – Chief Executive incumbent


Associate organisations

The RSPB is a member of Wildlife and Countryside Link.[33] The RSPB is the UK Partner of BirdLife International[34] and manages the South Atlantic Invasive Species Project on behalf of the partner governments.

See also




External links

  • YouTube
  • RSPB Images
  • Charity Commission
  • Office of the Scottish Charity Regulator

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