AN iconic bird of the Hampshire heathland has seen a dramatic decline in its numbers over the past few years. The Dartford warbler, unlike almost all other warblers, has suffered a major setback, with just 50 pairs reported across areas of Hampshire, Berkshire, Surrey and Sussex, according to the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds.

The RSPB said it was thought that the bird, pictured right, had declined during the last few years because of the harsh winters leading up to 2010.

The organisation said 75 per cent of heathland, which supports a range of wildlife including threatened UK breeding bird populations, had been lost but there is potential to remedy this situation.