The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds speaks out for birds and wildlife, tackling the problems that threaten our environment. Nature is amazing - help us keep it that way. We work for the conservation of wild birds, other wildlife and the places in which they live in a wide variety of ways. The RSPB works for the conservation of biodiversity, especially wild birds and their habitats. This is a huge task, and one that we take very seriously.
Our work is driven by a passionate belief that we all have a responsibility to protect birds and the environment. Bird populations reflect the health of the planet on which our future depends.
The need for an effective bird conservation organisation has never been greater. Climate change, agricultural intensification, expansion of urban areas and transport infrastructure, and over-exploitation of our seas all pose major threats to birds.
The RSPB could not exist without its supporters and members. Whether you join us, give a donation, purchase items from us or undertake voluntary work, your support is vital to the future of birds and the places where they live.
- Over a million members, including over 195,000 youth members.
- A staff of over 1,300 people and almost 18,000 volunteers.
- Resources available for charitable purposes in 2010 was £94.7 million.
- 200 nature reserves covering almost 130,000 hectares, home to 80% of our rarest or most threatened bird species.
- A UK headquarters, three national offices and nine regional offices.
- A local network of 175 local groups and more than 110 youth groups.
- At least 9 volunteers for every paid member of staff.
The RSPB was formed to counter the barbarous trade in plumes for women's hats, a fashion responsible for the destruction of many thousands of egrets, birds of paradise and other species whose plumes had become fashionable in the late Victorian era.
The organisation started life as The Plumage League, founded by Emily Williamson at her home in Manchester in 1889. The group quickly gained popularity and, in 1891, Williamson joined forces with Eliza Phillips – head of the Fur and Feather League in Croydon – to form the Society for the Protection of Birds.
In its earliest days, the society consisted entirely of women and membership cost twopence. The rules of the society were:
- 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.
Some of the Society's staunchest supporters were the very kind of people who might have been expected to wear the plumes – dignitaries such as the Duchess of Portland who became the Society's first President, and the Ranee of Sarawak.
A number of influential figures, including the leading ornithologist of the day, Professor Alfred Newton lent their support to the cause, which gained widespread publicity and popularity, leading to a rapid growth in the Society's membership and a widening of its aims.
Indeed the fledgling society was so successful that it was granted its Royal Charter in 1904, just 15 years after being founded. Then in 1921, the Importation of Plumage (Prohibition) Act was passed, forbidding plumage from being imported to Britain.
Homes for nature
We believe that they work best when they connect with wild spaces and habitats in the wider landscape. That's why we'll be working to make bigger, better, more joined up homes.
- Thanks to your support, we own 55% of the land we manage and 45% is managed in partnership with others. We aim to dramatically increase the land we own and manage over the next 15 years - our ambition is to double our land-holding by 2030.
- By 2025 we will have helped to improve the widlife value of at least 10% of the seas around the UK and its overseas territories.
- By 2025 we want to ensure that at least 20% of UK land is well managed for nature, by ensuring no loss of protected areas and by offering inspiration and advice to improve the management of around 500,000ha owned by others.