Category Archives: EBCC

Birds in Europe 3, 2, 1… launch!

The results of the two previous editions of ´Birds in Europe´, published by BirdLife in 1994 and 2004, both had massive impacts on conservation, research and policy. The first revealed widespread declines in farmland birds across Europe, and helped ensure that agri-environment measures became mandatory under the EU Common Agricultural Policy. The second highlighted the plight of many long-distance migrants, but also showed that the EU Birds Directive has had a significant, positive impact on the rare and threatened species that it aims to conserve, mainly via the Natura 2000 protected area network.

The European Commission is funding the new project, as part of its wider commitment to support European Red List assessments for various groups of animals and plants. Since 2005, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has produced European Red Lists for all terrestrial vertebrates, except birds. This gap will now be filled. By collating the latest data on the size and trend of bird populations and ranges in each country, it will be possible to reassess their status and produce Red Lists at both European and EU scales, to help set conservation priorities for the coming years.

The new project will be implemented by a very strong and experienced consortium, led by BirdLife International. It includes the European Bird Census Council, Wetlands International, Dutch Centre for Field Ornithology, British Trust for Ornithology, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, Czech Society for Ornithology, IUCN and BirdLife Europe. These organisations have a long history of successful cooperation on relevant initiatives, such as the global Red List, Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme, International Waterbird Census, Waterbird Population Estimates, Important Bird Areas, European Breeding Bird Atlas, and of course the two earlier editions of ‘Birds in Europe’.

Crucially, the project will draw heavily on the overall expertise and data holdings of national bird monitoring schemes and organisations across Europe, including BirdLife Partners and many others.

The data required from each country are similar to those that EU Member States have agreed to report to the European Commission every six years, under the Birds Directive. Real efforts have been made to harmonise these two processes, so that the consortium can provide technical support to Member States and help ensure that one common, agreed data set emerges in 2014, serving various purposes. The consortium will also support the European Commission in combining and analysing the data at EU level, to help measure progress towards the targets agreed in the EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2020.

The agenda, list of participants and all of the presentations delivered in Mikulov are available here.

Information about the format and guidance for reporting under the Birds Directive is available here.

Factsheets for all the species already covered by the European Red List are available to search here.

For more information, please contact the project coordinator, Ian Burfield:

EBCC paper wins award!

The paper ´Gregory R.D. & van Strien, A. (2010). Wild bird indicators: using composite population trends of birds as measures of environmental health. Ornithological Science 9: 3-22´ is the 2011 winner of the “UniBio Press Award” for Ornithological Science.

UniBio Press is a non-profit organization that distributes biology-oriented academic electronic journals, including Ornithological Science, the journal of the Ornithological Society of Japan. The “UniBio Press Award” is given each year for each journal to the author(s) who produced the most frequently accessed paper among all the papers published in the previous year.

Awarded paper presents a nice summary of a development, purposes and practical usage of the wild bird indicators. It explains the need of monitoring in general and the concept and methods of developing the indicators. It also discusses the strengths and weaknesses of using bird population trends as biodiversity indicators, and emphasizes the need of their careful and correct use in the decision of policy makers and land managers in managing the natural resources and conserving nature.

Paper to download here.

New Finnish Breeding Bird Atlas available on-line

Follow the link to see maps, statistics, comparisons and background information. On-line publishing enables viewing the data in interactive ways.

The English version is a bit limited compared to the Finnish version, as one can only browse by species (= in how many and which squares a species was observed), not by squares (= what species were observed in a certain square). However, browsing by species also offers a wide variety of ways to customize the view and compare data.

The aim of the third atlas was to examine present distributions of birds and compare them with those published in the previous atlases which were carried out in 1974 – 79 and 1986 – 1989. A unique set of three consecutive atlases is now available for researchers. The atlas data can be utilized together with other long-term bird monitoring and other environmental data to investigate changes in biodiversity. For example, the data of the atlas were used in the evaluation of the Red Listed species in Finland 2010.

The atlas is a great achievement since it is already the third one and has a very good coverage throughout the big and sparsely-populated country. It is also a excellent demonstration of what can be achieved by volunteer work as the large dataset has been gathered by over 5.000 volunteers throughout the country. Practically every 10×10 km square (3858 in total) has been visited by at least one birdwatcher during the project and the amount of data is exceptionally large. Noteworthy is also the fact that the results were published within a few months, which is good compared to last two times, when a book version was made.

For more information, contact Jari Valkama on

Dannish Common Bird Monitoring annual report 2010 published

Common bird census: The annual report presents results from the Danish Point Count Census for 77 wintering bird species in the period 1975/76-2009/10 and for 104 breeding bird species in the period 1976-2010. For the first time the trends for four common mammals are presented as well.

Theme of this years´ report: The collaborative European work in PECBMS is presented and a comparison of the population trends of 79 common breeding bird species in Eastern, Western, and Northern Europe is shown and compared to the trends found for Danish breeding birds. Finally, the report presents a set of bird indicators, which are based on the Danish breeding bird indices and species selection by PECBMS. The indicators describe the population trends of ´farmland birds´, ´woodland birds´ and ´other common birds´ as well as ´all common birds´.

Cite as: Heldbjerg, H., Lerche-Jørgensen, M. & Eskildsen, A. (2011): Overvågning af de almindelige fuglearter i Danmark 1975-2010. Årsrapport for Punkttællingsprojektet. Dansk Ornitologisk Forening.

The report can be found as pdf:

Fig. a) Population trend of Phylloscopus collybita

Fig. b) Population trend of Phylloscopus trochilus

Fig. c) Population trend of Sturnus vulgaris

Population trends for Chiffchaff (Phylloscopus collybita), Willow warbler (Phylloscopus trochilus) and Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) in Denmark (white), ´North´ (black), ´East´ (cross) and ´West´ (black and white) from year 1975 to 2010. The population trends for Chiffchaff (a) shows an increase all over the area, for Willow Warbler (b) a decline all over the area and for Starling (c) an increase in ´East´ and a decline in the other areas. Data source: EBCC/RSPB/BirdLife/Statistics Netherlands.

Henning Heldbjerg

A new index underway displaying the state of Bulgaria´s farmland birds

The three-year project is funded by the Rural Development Programme 2007-2013.

This new funding builds upon a project for Common Bird Monitoring (CBM), started in 2004 and funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB). Within CBM, a national network of volunteers was established and the state of farmland birds in Bulgaria was assessed three times (2008, 2009 and 2010). Data from the last assessment for the five year period 2005-2009 suggested that farmland birds in the country had decreased by 9%.

Crested Lark (Galerida cristata), photo Svetoslav Spasov

The new index will allow future assessments of the state of farmland birds, and thus informed measures for farmland habitat improvement.

The project possesses a new feature this time: an assessment of the role of agri-environmental schemes on the state of farmland birds and High Nature Value sites, in addition to other activities which match the formerly funded CBM.

Still no significant reduction in the rate of biodiversity loss in 2010

Butchart et al. compiled 31 indicators (of which three were developed by the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme) to provide an integrated view on measures of different aspects of biodiversity expressed as the indicators for a state of biodiversity, pressure upon it, responses to address its loss and the benefits humans derive from it.

This innovative approach shows that, unfortunately, the rate of biodiversity loss still does not appear to be slowing.

The study reveals that 8 of 10 indicators of the state of biodiversity showed declines over the past four decades, with no significant recent reductions in rate. Furthermore, all 5 indicators of pressures on biodiversity included in the report showed increasing trends. A similar negative picture was found in the indicators of the benefits humans derive from biodiversity as all of included are declining. On contrary, more positively sound the responses to address biodiversity loss because the indicators of policy and management responses showed increasing trends. Unfortunately, the rate of such improvements seems to be slowing in latest years again.

The report suggests that the protection of biodiversity can be effective on a local scale in some cases, and also that the increase in responses to protect biodiversity should be appreciated, however, overall picture of the state of biodiversity and its protection remains still unsatisfactory and alarming in 2010.

Butchart, S.H.M., Walpole, M., Collen, B., van Strien, A., Scharlemann, J.P.W., Almond, R.E.A., Baillie, J.E.M., Bomhard, B., Brown, C., Bruno, J., Carpenter, K.E., Carr, G.M., Chanson, J., Chenery, A.M., Csirke, J., Davidson, N.C., Dentener, F., Foster, M., Galli, A., Galloway, J.N., Genovesi P., Gregory, R.D., Hockings, M., Kapos, V., Lamarque, J.-F., Leverington, F., Loh, J., McGeoch, M.A., McRae, L., Minasyan, A., Hernández Morcillo, M., Oldfield, T.E.E., Pauly, D., Quader, S. Revenga, C., Sauer, J.R., Skolnik, B., Spear, D., Stanwell-Smith, D., Stuart, S.N., Symes, A., Tierney, M., Tyrrell, T.D., Vié, J.-C., Watson, R. (2010). Global Biodiversity: Indicators of Recent Declines. Science Vol. 328. (no. 5982): 1164-1168 (DOI: 10.1126/science.1187512).

Full text of the paper including supporting online materials is freely available on

The results of this study has been recently incorporated to the third edition of Global Biodiversity Outlook (GBO-3), produced by the CBD, on the occasion of the International Year of Biodiversity.

The GBO-3 report is based on scientific assessments, national reports submitted by governments and a study on future scenarios for biodiversity. It summarizes key findings on the state of biodiversity in 2010, addresses the underlying causes or indirect drivers of biodiversity loss, and outlines a possible new strategy for reducing biodiversity loss.

The conclusions of the GBO-3 will contribute to discussions of world leaders and heads of state at a meeting of the United Nations General Assembly on 22 September 2010, and should be also used for the negotiations by world governments at the Nagoya Biodiversity Summit in October this year.

Nowadays, when it is more than real that the 2010 target will not be met, it is important to learn from this failure as much as possible and build up a new plan for biodiversity protection, as expressed by Stuart Butchard: “2010 will not be the year that biodiversity loss was halted, but it needs to be the year in which we start taking the issue seriously and substantially increase our efforts to take care or what is left of our planet“.

Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity (2010). Global Biodiversity Outlook 3. Montréal, 94 pages.

Full report can be downloaded on and more information about GBO-3 can be also found on


Climate change affecting Europe´s birds now say researchers

Published in the journal PloS ONE, scientists have shown a strong link between observed population change of individual species and the projected range change, associated with climate change, among a number of widespread and common European birds.

By pulling all the data together the team led by EBCC have been able to compile an indicator showing how climate change is affecting wildlife across Europe. The European Union is considering the indicator as an official measure of the impacts of climate change on the continent’s wildlife, the first indicator of its kind.

The Climate Change Indicator (Fig. 1) combines two independent strands of work; bioclimate envelope-modelling and observed populations trends in European birds, derived from the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme.

Figure 1: The Climate Change Indicator.
When a bird’s population changes in line with the projection, the indicator goes up. Species whose observed trend doesn’t fit the projection cause the indicator to decline.

The analysis drew on PECBMS data shows that species whose ranges are predicted to increase as a result of climate change have indeed increased in numbers (Fig. 2); while the opposite appears to be the case for species predicted to loose their ranges due to climate change (Fig. 3).

Of the 122 species included in the study (out of 526 species which nest in Europe), 30 are projected to increase their range; while the remaining 92 species are anticipated to decrease their range.

Figure 2: Species predicted to gain range in response to climatic change
(30 species).

Figure 3: Species predicted to lose range in response to climatic change
(92 species).

The notable fact is that the number of species that are predicted to decrease their range in response to climate change is 3 times higher than those expected to gain their range.

The research also shows what species are projected to increase and decrease their populations across Europe. Of the 122 species that were surveyed, the top ten increasing species and the top ten worst performers across Europe are ordered in the table below.

Top 10 increasing species Top 10 declining species
Sardinian warbler (Sylvia melanocephala) Snipe (Gallinago gallinago)
Subalpine warbler (Sylvia cantillans) Meadow pipit (Anthus pratensis)
Bee-eater (Merops apiaster) Brambling (Fringilla montifringilla)
Cirl bunting (Emberiza cirlus) Willow tit (Parus montanus)
Cetti’s warbler (Cettia cetti) Lapwing (Vanellus vanellus)
Hoopoe (Upupa epops) Thrush nightingale (Luscinia luscinia)
Golden oriole (Oriolus oriolus) Wood warbler (Phylloscopus sibilatrix)
Goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis) Nutcracker (Nucifraga caryocatactes)
Great reed warbler (Acrocephalus arundinaceus) Northern wheatear (Oenanthe oenanthe)
Collared dove (Streptopelia decaocto) Lesser spotted woodpecker (Dendrocopos minor)

The paper and the indicator were produced by a team of scientists from the RSPB, Durham University, Cambridge University, the European Bird Census Council, the Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, the Czech Society for Ornithology, and Statistics Netherlands.

The RSPB’s Dr Richard Gregory was the paper’s lead author. Commenting on the findings he said: “We hear a lot about climate change, but our paper shows that its effects are being felt right now. The results show the number of species being badly affected outnumbers the species that might benefit by three to one. Although we have only had a very small actual rise in global average temperature, it is staggering to realise how much change we are noticing in wildlife populations. If we don’t take our foot off the gas now, our indicator shows there will be many much worse effects to come. We must keep global temperature rise below the 2 degree ceiling; anything above this will create global havoc.”

The paper co-author, Dr Stephen Willis, of Durham University, said: “Our indicator is the biodiversity equivalent of the FTSE index, only instead of summarising the changing fortunes of businesses, it summarises how biodiversity is changing due to climate change. Unlike the FTSE, which is currently at a six year low, the climate change index has been increasing each year since the mid-80s, indicating that climate is having an increasing impact on biodiversity.”

“Those birds we predict should fare well under climate change have been increasing since the mid-80s, and those we predict should do badly have declined over the same period. The worry is that the declining group actually consist of 75 per cent of the species we studied.”

Dr Gregory added: “This new work emphasises again the role played by skilled amateur birdwatchers right across Europe in advancing our understanding of the environment and the growing threat posed by climate change.”

Full reference to the paper: Richard D. Gregory, Stephen G. Willis, Frédéric Jiguet, Petr Voříšek, Alena Klvaňová, Arco van Strien, Brian Huntley, Yvonne C. Collingham, Denis Couvet, Rhys E. Green (2009): An Indicator of the Impact of Climatic Change on European Bird Populations. PLoS ONE 4(3): e4678. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0004678

Link to PloS ONE

For further information, please contact:

Dr Richard Gregory, Chairman, European Bird Census Council, & Head of Species Monitoring and Research, RSPB: +44 (0)1767 693049, richard.gregory at

Editor’s notes:

1) The Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS) a system for harmonised data collection.
The Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS) is a partnership involving the European Bird Census Council (EBCC), the RSPB, BirdLife International, and Statistics Netherlands. The PECBMS aims to deliver policy relevant biodiversity indicators to decision makers in Europe. It collates national data in a harmonised way on bird trends from a network of expert ornithologists from over twenty European countries. The project aims to improve the scientific standard of bird monitoring by fostering co-operation and the sharing of best practice and expertise. Website:
The PECBMS is funded by the RSPB and the European Commission.

2) The European Bird Census Council (EBCC) is an association of like-minded expert ornithologists co-operating in various ways to improve bird monitoring and atlas work in Europe, and thereby inform and improve the management and conservation of bird populations. It aims to promote exchange of news, ideas and expertise through a journal and a programme of workshops and conferences. It works closely with ornithological and conservation organisations, and encourages links between ornithologists, land managers and policy makers. The EBCC oversees specialist working groups and European monitoring projects; these have included The EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds (1997), and currently the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme. Website:

3) Special thanks to the EBCC network and the volunteer counters.
Thanks go to the many individuals and organisations responsible for national data collation for ‘The EBCC Atlas of European Breeding Birds’ and the PECBMS, upon which this work is based. We would like to express special thanks to the many thousands of skilled volunteer counters across Europe who are responsible for data collection.
Thanks also to: Norbert Teufelbauer, Michael Dvorak, Christian Vansteenwegen, Anne Weiserbs, Jean-Paul Jacob, Anny Anselin, Thierry Kinet, Antoine Derouaux, Jiří Reif, Karel Šťastný, Henning Heldbjerg, Michael Grell, Andres Kuresoo, Risto Väisänen, Frederic Jiguet, Johannes Schwarz, Martin Flade, Tibor Szép, Olivia Crowe, Lorenzo Fornasari, Elisabetta de Carli, Ainars Aunins, Ruud Foppen, Magne Husby, Przemek Chylarecki, Dagmara Jawinska, Geoff Hilton, Juan Carlos del Moral, Ramón Martí, Virginia Escandell, Åke Lindström, Sören Svensson, Hans Schmid, Andrew Joys, David Noble, Mike Raven, and Andrew Joys.
We also thank Adriaan Gmelig Meyling, Ian Burfield, Ruud Foppen, David Noble, Zoltan Waliczky, Lukáš Viktora, Lucie Hošková, Norbert Schäffer, Adrian Oates, David Gibbons, Jose Tavares, Henk Sierdsema, Sergi Herrando, Dominique Richard, Grégoire Lois, Pierre Nadin, Laure Ledoux, and Anne Teller for valuable support.

A Climatic Atlas of European Breeding Birds

A disastrous vision?

The atlas suggests that for the average European bird species their ‘potential’ distribution by the end of this century will shift nearly 550 km northeast. The average bird’s distribution could also be reduced in size by a fifth and overlap the current range by only 40 per cent. Alarmingly, the atlas shows that three quarters of all of Europe’s nesting bird species are likely to suffer declines in range according to their models. This potentially disastrous vision for the future of wildlife, which could set some species on a path to extinction, has hastened calls by conservationists for urgent action to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to help wildlife adapt to a rapidly warming world.

The estimates used in the atlas are based upon a model of climatic change that projects an increase of global average temperature of about three degrees Centigrade since pre-industrial times. However, many regard any rise above two degrees Centigrade as disastrous for wildlife and mankind.

About the atlas

The atlas has been written by Professors Brian Huntley, of Durham University, and Rhys Green, of the RSPB and the University of Cambridge, and Drs Yvonne Collingham and Steve Willis, both of Durham University, and in close association with the EBCC and others.

Atlas combines field data from the EBCC atlas with climate simulation modelling to map the potential geographical ranges of most European breeding bird species at the end of the 21st century. It does this by describing the current breeding range of each species in Europe in terms of three measures of climate: summer warmth, winter cold and water availability. This describes the typical ‘climate space’ occupied by each species. The Atlas then combines this climate space information with models projecting the late-21st-century climate of Europe, under a moderate greenhouse gas emissions scenario.

Professor Rhys Green said: ‘Climatic change and wildlife’s responses to it are difficult to forecast with any precision, but this study helps us to appreciate the magnitude and scope of possible impacts and to identify species at most risk and those in need of urgent help and protection.’

Professor Brian Huntley, of Durham University, said: ‘Although the details both of future climatic changes and of species’ responses to these changes remain uncertain, the potential magnitude of both is clear, and is such that the adaptation measures necessary to conserve European biodiversity only can be achieved through urgent international action.’

The Atlas was published by Lynx Editions in partnership with RSPB/BirdLife International and Durham University. Several other organisations have been closely involved, particularly the EBCC. The book can be ordered through this website.

The RSPB and BirdLife International have produced an 8-page summary of the atlas: Birds on the move: Introducing A Climatic Atlas Of European Breeding Birds, which is available here









Richard D. Gregory