DOG-walkers are to be urged to prevent their pets from disturbing birds on Wirral beaches.

A new study investigating the impact of "recreational activities" on important species around the peninsula's coast has been inconclusive.

But Government advisers Natural England said there was enough evidence to warrant asking the council to provide shoreline sign boards in a bid to increase public awareness.

Previous analysis by British Trust for Ornithology showed local wading bird populations were declining and suggested this was linked to "human disturbance" such as people walking their dogs on the beach.

This new inquiry examined whether a link could be proven between these reduced numbers and high levels of recreation around North Wirral foreshore's Sites of Special Scientific Interest.

George Watola of UK consultancy Thomson Ecology - which carried out the research after being commissioned by Natural England - said: “We surveyed waders and wildfowl and their responses to human activity.

"We looked at the management measures currently in place which address recreational pressures in the area.

"A total of 640 visitors were further questioned to ascertain the public’s views on bird disturbance locally and its causes.

“Although we found that these sites are easily accessible and well-used, our study indicated while there were frequent flight responses by birds to disturbance from recreational activities it could not be ascertained if this was having population-level effects.

"There are many reasons why bird populations fluctuate.”

Hannah Birtles from Natural England said: “We commissioned this study to try to get a better understanding of the causes of bird declines and to find out whether these may be linked to high levels of recreational activity in order to improve management of these sites.

"The study produced some very interesting results which, although did not produce a definitive answer, do suggest the need for increased awareness-raising about disturbance to birds caused by recreational activities among the general public.

"We will be discussing these results with our partners, in particular Wirral Council, to discuss options such as signage and interpretation boards.”