There is a mass extinction of birds in Europe. An international team of researchers has studied data on 378 of the 445 bird species native to European Union countries. He compared their populations between 1980 and 2017 and came to a shocking finding. More than 600 million nesting birds have disappeared from the European Union since 1980. This is a decrease of 17-19%. In fact, as many as 900 million birds have been lost during this period, but the loss is offset by an increase in the abundance of some species of around 340 million individuals.

The largest decrease was recorded for sparrows

These are the findings of a study published by the team in the journal Ecology and Evolution. The number of birds living in the agricultural landscape decreases the most, ie especially meadow and field birds. One of the most affected species is the house sparrow, whose population has decreased by 247 million. This is half the original condition. His relative, the field sparrow (Passer montanus), lost 30 million individuals. The comprehensive study is based on data from the Pan-European Common Birds Monitoring (PECBMS), the European Census Council (EBCC) project, and mandatory reports from EU Member States, which they must submit to the European Commission under the EU Birds Directive.

Which species have seen the largest decline?

  • Passer domesticus (House sparrow) – decrease of 247 million
  • Motacilla flava – decrease of 97 million
  • Sturnus vulgaris – decrease of 75 million
  • Alauda arvensis – decrease of 68 million
  • Passer montanus – decrease of 30 million

What is the reason for the mass extinction of birds?

This is due to changes in agricultural practices that are influenced by policy. The study mentions agricultural policy and extensive farming, pesticides, food shortages and nesting opportunities, the spread of bird malaria and air pollution.

Ornithologist Alena Klvaňová, who participated in the study, writes in Bird Life magazine: “Many people associate nature conservation with saving rare species from extinction, but restoring decimated populations of abundant species is just as important. This is important both for the preservation of themselves and for the role that these ubiquitous species play in a healthy environment. “

“The loss of hundreds of millions of individuals will affect the benefits and services that nature brings to humans, whether it’s crop pest control by insectivorous birds or the pleasure of watching beautiful natural performances such as starling flocks.”

What needs to be done to save the birds?

While the decline in birds was significant in the 1980s and 1990s, the pace of decline has slowed over the last decade. The study attributes this to European directives on birds and bird habitats. The decline of common and abundant birds proves that a wider range of conservation actions is still needed. The need to protect birds connected to the agricultural landscape is particularly urgent, as is the protection of long-distance migrants along their migration routes.