Above: New data suggests that 600 million breeding birds have been lost in since 1980: the house sparrow has seen the largest population decline. Photo: Ray Kennedy/rspb-images.com

 

A NEW STUDY has discovered large-scale population declines in Europe’s birds, with around 600 million breeding birds being lost in the EU and UK since 1980.

A team of scientists from the RSPB, BirdLife International and the Czech Society for Ornithology analysed data for 378 out of 445 bird species native to countries in the EU and UK. They found that a significant proportion of these losses are a result of huge decreases in the more common and abundant bird species.

The eight species showing the largest declines account for 69 per cent of the decline across all 175 declining species. They include: house sparrow, yellow wagtail, common starling, skylark, willow warbler, serin, linnet and tree sparrow.

“Our study is a wake-up call to the very real threat of extinctions and of a Silent Spring,” commented Fiona Burns, RSPB senior conservation scientist and lead author of the study.

“We need transformative action across society to tackle the nature and climate crises together. That means increasing the scale and ambition of nature-friendly farming, species protection, sustainable forestry and fisheries, and rapidly expanding the protected area network.”

Between 1980 to 2017, the study authors estimate an overall population decline of between 17 per cent and 19 per cent, equating to a loss of between 560 and 620 million individual birds.

In fact, some 900 million birds have been lost during that period, however, this is set against an increase of around 340 million in some species.

Anna Staneva, BirdLife Europe interim head of conservation, said: “This report loudly and clearly shows that nature is sounding the alarm. While protecting birds that are already rare or endangered has resulted in some successful recoveries, this doesn’t seem to be enough to sustain the populations of abundant species.”

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