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Christmas birds 'disaster'

Two of the UK's most well-known Christmas birds have seen major declines in the past few years, with farmland bird numbers falling to new record lows, figures show.

Turtle doves and grey partridges, which feature in the song the Twelve Days of Christmas, have declined by almost 60% and 30% respectively in the five years to 2010, in what conservationists described as a "wildlife disaster". The RSPB has warned that if turtle dove numbers continue to fall at current rates, there could be fewer than 1000 pairs by the middle of the next decade and the farmland bird could be facing extinction in the UK.

The latest figures come amid concerns that European Union funding for wildlife-friendly farming will be cut.

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