Latest update of European wild bird indicators confirms continued decline of farmland birds

The latest data on European common birds, brought together by the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS), shows a continued decline of European farmland birds. While the common forest birds are more or less stable over the last 10-15 years, the farmland birds show a staggering decline of 55% since 1980.

Common Farmland Bird Indicator, Europe, 2017 update

Among 39 species characteristic for European farmland, 24 have declined, 6 increased, trends of 6 species are stable and in 3 species the trends are uncertain. Many species formerly common, like skylark (Alauda arvensis) and lapwing (Vanellus vanellus), have declined and become less common in farmland nowadays. On the positive side, the white storks (Ciconia ciconia) are doing very well with an increase of 60%.

The white storks´ numbers are increasing (photograph Tomáš Bělka)
As Iván Ramírez, Head of Conservation of BirdLife Europe & Central Asia, says, the common farmland birds might actually be one of the most threatened bird groups in Europe. Intensification of agriculture is the driving factor behind the downward population trends of the last three decades. The drainage of wetlands, use of agro-chemicals and change from mixed farms to monocultures are just a few examples of how intensified agriculture can negatively affect farmland bird species.

Among 34 common bird species characteristic for forests in Europe, 12 are in the category of increasing species, 13 are declining and 9 have their long-term trends stable. However, differences in trends among regions suggest that the common forest bird indicator is subject to regional variation. This will be examined in the near future in PECBMS in order to identify datasets which could give better insight into forest bird indicators.

28 countries provided their bird monitoring data for the 2017 update of the European wild bird indicators, which are calculated by PECBMS, a joint initiative of the European Bird Census Council and BirdLife International. Birds are one of the best indicators for measuring ecosystem health, and the newly published figures can be used to emphasize the need for policy measures to conserve Europe´s biodiversity.

Maaike de Jong