Half of European bird population now under threat

Nearly half of Europe's bird population faces an uncertain future as the number of threatened species rises, BirdLife International has warned this week.

The latest assessment, published in BirdLife International’s new study Birds in Europe, showed that 43% of all birds occurring regularly in Europe (226 species in total) were declining in numbers, rare or localised, while populations of others remained heavily depleted.

According to the in-depth study, some species are now so threatened that they may even disappear from parts of Europe in the very near future.

“The struggles facing many of Europe’s birds are immense,” BirdLife International director Mike Rands stated.

Among those causing particular concern due to their heavily dwindling numbers are the Wood Warbler, House Sparrow, Corn Bunting and the Common Starling. Intensive agriculture, unsustainable logging and climate change were cited as some of the main causes of the bird population depletion.

However, Mr Rands added that it was not all bad news as conservation efforts had actually helped to increase the occurrence of some birds.

Previously endangered species such as the peregrine and Audouin’s Gull were now more stable, and a population increase for White Tailed Eagles had now seen the previously globally threatened bird more than double in numbers.

“Conservation works. These increases reflect the considerable attention given to priority species,” he said, “but everyone must remain level headed.”

The EU has promised to halt the loss of wildlife in Europe by 2010 and has set a date for another bird population assessment to be completed in ten years time. Clairie Papazoglou, head of BirdLife’s European Community Office in Brussels, said that the future assessment would reveal whether the EU managed to keep its promise.

She said the fact that more birds in Europe currently faced a more uncertain future than they did a decade ago was deeply worrying.

“Birds are excellent environmental indicators and the continued decline of many species send a clear signal about the health of Europe’s wildlife and the poor state of our environment,” she pointed out.

By Jane Kettle

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