European Red List of Birds has been just published

Example of Critically endangered species – Sociable Lapwing. This wader nests on the central Asian steppes and winters in NE Africa, Arabia and NW India. It used to breed in Ukraine and southern European Russia, but has lost most of its breeding grounds in our region to agricultural expansion, and is now down to just a few pairs in European Russia. In its last strongholds in Kazakhstan it is threatened by the loss of grazing animals needed for habitat maintenance, while hunting is a cause of concern on passage and in winter. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The key findings in the report are (based on BirdLife press release):

  • 18% of the 451 species assessed are threatened at EU27 level. This means 82 species, of which 11 are Critically Endangered, 16 Endangered and 55 Vulnerable.
  • 13% of the 533 species assessed are threatened at European level. That makes a total of 67 species, of which 10 are Critically Endangered (the highest threat level). Among them some iconic and popular birds such as: Sociable Lapwing, Yellow-breasted Bunting, Slender-billed Curlew and Balearic Shearwater. The study also found that 18 species are Endangered and an additional 39 Vulnerable.
  • Negative trends: a total of 29 species have been uplisted since 2004 (formerly considered to be of Least Concern but are now threatened or Near Threatened in Europe). Here we find species such as European Turtle-dove, Eurasian Oystercatcher, Atlantic Puffin, Razorbill, Meadow Pipit, Willow Grouse, Black-legged Kittiwake and Common Pochard. Some species that were identified as being in trouble a decade ago have still not improved: Egyptian Vulture, Aquatic Warbler, Northern Lapwing, Greater Spotted Eagle and Little Bustard.
  • Improvements: a total of 20 species were previously considered regionally threatened and are now classified as Least Concern in Europe (although some are still globally threatened). These include some very charismatic species, such as Dalmatian Pelican, Ferruginous Duck, Eurasian Thick-knee, Black Kite, Lesser Kestrel, Long-legged Buzzard, Gull-billed Tern, Arctic Loon and Great Bustard. Another 25 species are still threatened in Europe, but now have a lower extinction risk than a decade ago, and have seen their threat level downlisted. For example, Zino’s Petrel and Azores Bullfinch, both previously considered to be Critically Endangered, are now classified as Endangered.

Example of Endangered species – Egyptian Vulture. Egyptian Vulture is highly vulnerable to poisoning, both in the Mediterranean breeding grounds and on its African wintering grounds. It also falls victim to electrocution on powerlines, shooting and loss of extensive agriculture habitat. Photo by Svetoslav Spasov.

Example of Vulnerable species – Little Bustard. This category includes some formerly very common farmland birds which have collapsed, mainly due to farming intensification. These include European Turtle-dove, Northern Lapwing and Eurasian Curlew, plus rarer species like Little Bustard and Dupont´s Lark. Photo by Francesco Veronesi.

Example of Conservation Success Stories – Lesser Kestrel. Lesser Kestrel declined in the second half of the 20th century because of habitat loss and degradation, but the declines slowed and eventually halted largely as a consequence of actions implemented following the development of a Species Action Plan and increased resources to implement this, including full legal protection in all relevant EU countries, management of breeding colonies, provision of artificial nest boxes, maintenance of foraging habitats through agri-environment schemes, and awareness-raising activities. The species was downlisted from Vulnerable to Least Concern. Photo by Bernard Dupont.


BirdLife International (2015) European Red List of Birds. Luxembourg: Office for Official Publications of the European Communities.

Background info

The IUCN Red List is widely recognised as the most authoritative and objective system for assessing the extinction risk of species. Although it was primarily developed for global use, it can also be applied at regional and national levels, following IUCN´s Regional Red List Guidelines. BirdLife International is recognised by the IUCN as the Red List authority for birds.

The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ provides taxonomic, conservation status and distribution information on plants, fungi and animals that have been evaluated using the IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria. This system is designed to determine the relative risk of extinction, and the main purpose of the Red List is to catalogue and highlight those taxa that are facing a higher risk of extinction (i.e. those listed as Critically Endangered, Endangered and Vulnerable). The IUCN Red List also includes information on taxa that are categorised as Extinct or Extinct in the Wild; on taxa that cannot be evaluated because of insufficient information (i.e., are Data Deficient); and on taxa that are close to meeting the threatened thresholds (i.e., are Near Threatened).
Since 2005, the European Commission has financed European Red Lists for all terrestrial vertebrate groups, except birds, and for several other taxa, such as molluscs, bees, medicinal plants etc. During 2012–2015, a Commission-funded project – led by BirdLife International, and involving a consortium including the European Bird Census Council, Wetlands International, IUCN, BTO, Sovon, RSPB, Czech Society for Ornithology and BirdLife Europe – has filled this gap for birds. The new European Red List of Birds offers a state of the art assessment of risk of extinction for all bird species naturally occurring in Europe, from the Atlantic to the Ural mountains. BirdLife has combined the official data reported by EU Member States under Article 12 of the Birds Directive with equivalent data collated and provided by BirdLife Partners and other key collaborators in virtually every other country in Europe, and assessed the regional extinction risk of every regularly occurring species using IUCN Regional Red List Guidelines.