Category Archives: Useful reading and References

Contrasting Common Starling trends across Europe

A recent paper published in Ornis Fennica (Heldbjerg et al. 2019) showed that positive population trends of Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) in Central-East Europe contrast with negative trends in North and West Europe. The study, which included common bird monitoring data from 24 European countries and involved no less than 34 co-authors, provides an example of how useful the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS) and all the included national monitoring schemes within this collaboration are.

The Starling is one of the many numerous and widespread European farmland breeding bird species showing major population declines linked to agricultural intensification in Europe. We used monitoring data collected since 1975 in 24 countries to examine the influence of changing extent of grassland and cattle abundance, wintering provenance and temperature on national breeding population trends of Starlings across Europe.  Positive Starling population trends in Central-East Europe contrast with negative trends in North and West Europe. Based on this indicative approach, we found some support for the importance of cattle stock and no support for grassland, temperature or wintering provenance to explain Starling population trends in Europe.

Such a European-wide analysis may conceal regional differences in responses and suggests that currently accessible national land use data might be insufficient to describe the detailed current changes in animal husbandry and grassland management.  These changes may be responsible for changes in food availability and hence breeding Starling´s abundance and their differences across Europe. Reviewing results from local studies relating Starling population trends to local agricultural change offer contradictory results, suggesting complex interacting processes at work. We therefore recommend combining national datasets on demography, land-use/agricultural practices and from autecological research to better explain the reasons for contrasting Starling trends across Europe.

We hope that this paper will inspire other researchers to perform similar analyses on other species or species groups on European level. The PECBMS time series grows every year and the number of schemes involved is constantly increasing making the data suitable for comparative studies.

Heldbjerg H. et al. 2019: Contrasting population trends of Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) across Europe. Ornis Fennica 96


Henning Heldbjerg


The loss of fallow land and farmland birds in Spain

A science blog post by Prof Richard Gregory has been published discussing the links between the loss of fallow land in Spain and the loss of farmland birds.

The story comes from the new research published in Scientific Reports by Juan Traba & Manuel B. Morales: The decline of farmland birds in Spain is strongly associated to the loss of fallowland.

The Great Bustard is one of the declining farmland birds which are typical for the cereal Steppe habitats in the Iberian Penninsula.
Photo by Martin Pelánek (

Useful reading and references

A wide range of information is available on bird monitoring and atlas methods. Some of the most useful are as follows:

Papers based on PECBMS results or directly linked to the PECBMS project:

  • Both, C., Van Turnhout, C.A.M., Bijlsma, R.G., Siepel, H., Van Strien, A.J. and Foppen, R.P.B. (2010): Avian population consequences of climate change are most severe for long-distance migrants in seasonal habitats. Proceedings of the Royal Society B 277: 1259-1266 (DOI:10.1098/rspb.2009.1525). PDF
  • 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 328 (5982): 1164-1168 (DOI: 10.1126/science.1187512). PDF + Supporting Online Material
  • Butler, S.J., Boccaccio, L., Gregory, R.D., Vorisek, P., Norris, K. (2010): Quantifying the impact of land-use change to European farmland bird populations. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 137 (2010) 348-357. PDF
  • Collen, B., Loh, J., Whitmee, S., McRae, L., Amin, R., Baillie, J.E.M. (2009): Monitoring Change in Vertebrate Abundance: the Living Planet Index. Conservation Biology 23 (2): 317-327.
  • Gregory, R.D., Noble, D., Field, R., Marchant, J., Raven, M. et Gibbons, D.W. (2003): Using birds as indicators of biodiversity. Ornis Hungarica 12-13: 11-24. PDF
  • Gregory R.D., van Strien A.J., Vorisek P., Gmelig Meyling A.W., Noble D.G., Foppen R.P.B. et Gibbons D.W. (2005): Developing indicators for European birds. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 360: 269-288. PDF
  • Gregory, R.D., van Strien, A. (2010): Wild bird indicators: using composite population trends of birds as measures of environmental health. Ornithological Science 9 (1): 3-22. PDF
  • Gregory, R.D., Vorisek, P., Van Strien, A., Gmelig Meyling, A.W., Jiguet, F., Fornasari, L., Reif, J. , Chylarecki, P., Burfield, I.J. (2007): Population trends of widespread woodland birds in Europe. Ibis 149 (Suppl. 2): 78-97. PDF
  • Gregory, R.D., Vorisek, P., Noble, D.G., Van Strien, A., Klvanova, A., Eaton, M., Meyling A.W.G., Joys, A., Foppen, R.P.B., Burfield, I.J. (2008): The generation and use of bird population indicators in Europe. Bird Conservation International 18: S223-S244 (DOI: 10.1017/S0959270908000312). PDF
  • Gregory R.D., Willis S.G., Jiguet F., Voříšek P., Klvaňová A., van Strien, A., Huntley, B., Collingham, Y.C., Couvet, D., Green, R.E. (2009) An Indicator of the Impact of Climatic Change on European Bird Populations. PLoS ONE 4(3): e4678 (DOI:10.1371/journal.pone.0004678). PDF
  • Ivits, E., Buchanan, G., Olsvig-Whittaker, L., Cherlet, M. (2011): European Farmland Bird Distribution Explained by Remotely Sensed Phenological Indices. Environmental Modeling and Assessment 16 (4): 385-399 (DOI: 10.1007/s10666-011-9251-9).
  • Jiguet, F., Gregory, R.D., Devictor, V., Green, R.E, Voříšek, P., Van Strien, A. and Couvet, D. (2009): Population trends of European common birds are predicted by characteristics of their climatic niche. Global Change Biology 16(2): 497-505 (DOI: 10.1111/j.1365-2486.2009.01963.x). PDF
  • Klvaňová, A., Voříšek, P., Gregory, R.D., van Strien, A., Gmelig Meyling, A. (2009): Wild birds as indicators in Europe: latest results from the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS). Avocetta 33: 7-12. PDF
  • Moller, A.P. (2008): Flight distance and population trends in European breeding birds. Behavioral Ecology 19 (6): 1095-1102 (DOI: 10.1093/beheco/arn103).
  • Mace, G.M., Collen, B., Fuller, R.A. and Boakes, E.H. (2010): Population and geographic range dynamics: implications for conservation planning. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B (2010) 365: 3743-3751 (DOI:10.1098/rstb.2010.0264).
  • Popy, S., Bordignon, L. and Prodon, R. (2010): A weak upward elevational shift in the distributions of breeding birds in the Italian Alps. Journal of Biogeography 37: 57-67.
  • Scholefield, P., Firbank, L., Butler, S., Norris, K., Jones, L.M., Petit, S. (2011): Modelling the European Farmland Bird Indicator in response to forecast land-use change in Europe. Ecological Indicators 11 (1): 46-51.
  • Van Strien, A.J., Pannekoek, J. et Gibbons, D.W. (2001): Indexing European bird population trends using results of national monitoring schemes: a trial of a new method. Bird Study 48: 200-213. VanStrien et al2001
  • Vorisek, P., Gregory, R.D., Van Strien, A.J. & Gmelig Meyling, A. (2008): Population trends of 48 common terrestrial bird species in Europe: results from the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme. Revista catalana d’ornitologia 24: 4-14. PDF
  • Voříšek, P., Jiguet, F., van Strien, A., Škorpilová, J., Klvaňová, A. & Gregory, R.D. (2010): Trends in abundance and biomass of widespread European farmland birds: how much have we lost? BOU Proceedings – Lowland Farmland Birds III. PDF


Other important and useful reading on monitoring:

  • Bennun, L. et Howell, K. (2002): Birds. In: Davies G. et Hoffmann M. [eds.]: African Forest biodiversity: a field survey manual for vertebrates. Earthwatch, Europe.
  • Bibby, C.J., Burgess, N.D. et Hill, D.A. (2000): Bird Census Techniques. Academic Press, London, 2nd edition.
  • Bibby, C., Jones, M., Marsden, S. (1998): Expedition Field Techniques. Bird Surveys. Expedition Advisory Centre, Royal Geographical Society, London. PDF
  • Buckland, S.T., Anderson, D.R., Burnham, K.P., Laake, J.L. et Borchers, D.L. (2001): Introduction to Distance sampling: estimating abundance of biological populations. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  • Conway, C.J. (2003): Stanardized North American marshbird monitoring protocols. U.S. geological Survey, Arizona Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, Tucson, Arizona, USA.
  • Gibbons, D.W. et Gregory, R.D. (2005): Birds. In: Sutherland W.J. [ed.]: Ecological Census Techniques: a handbook. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2nd edition.
  • Gilbert, G., Gibbons, D.W. et Evans, J. (1998): Bird Monitoring Methods – a manual of techniques for key UK species. RSPB, Sandy.
  • Greenwood, J.J.D. (2005): Basic techniques. In: Sutherland W.J. [ed.]: Ecological Census Techniques: a handbook. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2nd edition.
  • Gregory, R.D., Gibbons, D.W. et Donald, P.F. (2004): Bird census and survey techniques. In: Sutherland W.J., Newton I. et Green R. E. [eds.]: Bird Ecology and Conservation; a Handbook of Techniques. Oxford University Press, Oxford: 17-56. PDF
  • Javed, S. et Kaul, R. (2002): Field methods for bird surveys. Bombay Natural History Society, Deparment of Wildlife Sciences, Aligarh Muslim University and World Pheasant Association, New Delhi India.
  • Komdeur, J., Bertelsen, J. et Cracknell, G. (1992): Manual for aeroplane and ship surveys of waterfowl and seabirds. IWRB Special Publication 19. Slimbridge, U.K.
  • Koskimies, P. et Väisänen, R.A. [eds.] (1991): Monitoring Bird Populations. – Finnish Museum of Natural History, Helsinki.
  • Steinkamp, M., Peterjohn, H., Bryd, V., Carter, H. et Lowe, R. (2003): Breeding season survey techniques for seabirds and colonial waterbirds throughout North America
  • Underhill, L. et Gibbons, D. (2002): Mapping and monitoring bird populations; their conservation uses. In: Norris K. et Pain D. [eds.]: Conserving bird biodiversity; general principles and their application. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge: 34-60.
  • van Strien, A.J., Soldaat, L.L., Gregory, R.D. (2011): Desirable mathematical properties of indicators for biodiversity change. Ecological Indicators 14: 202-208. PDF
  • Walsh, P.M., Halley, D.J., Harris, M.P., del Nevo, A., Sim, I.M.W. et Tasker, M.L. (1995): Seabird Monitoring Handbook for Britain and Ireland. – JNCC, Peterborough.
  • Wiens, J.A. (2009): Is ´monitoring´a dirty word? – Bulletin of the British Ecological Society 2009: 40/2. PDF

The proceedings of EBCC conferences also contain numerous useful references. Some of the most recent are:

  • conference 2010 – Proceedings of the 18th International Conference of the EBCC. Bird Numbers 2010: Monitoring, indicators and targets. Ardeola 2010/57 (2). link to PDFs (additional papers in Bird Census News 2010/23)
  • conference 2007 – Proceedings of the 17th International Conference of the EBCC: Bird Numbers 2007: Monitoring for Conservation and Management. Avocetta 2009/37.
  • conference 2004 – Proceedings of the 16th International Conference of the EBCC. Bird Numbers 2004: Monitoring in a Changing Europe. Revista Catalana d´Ornitologia 2008/24.
    link to PDFs
  • conference 2001 – Proceedings of the 15th International Conference of the EBCC. Bird Numbers 2001: Monitoring for Nature Conservation. Ornis Hungarica 2003/12-13. link to PDFs, link 2
  • conference 1998Proceedings of the 14th International Conference of the EBCC. Bird Numbers 1998: Where Monitoring and Ecological Research Meet. Die Vogelwelt 1999/120, Supplement.
  • conference 1995 – Proceedings of the International Conference and 13th Meeting of the European Bird Census Council. Bird Numbers 1995. Bird Census News 2000/13 (1-2).
  • conference 1992 – Proceedings of the 12th International Conference of IBCC and EOAC Bird Numbers 1992: Distribution, Monitoring and Ecological Aspects. SOVON, Beek-Ubbergen 1994.
  • conference 1989 – Proceedings of the 11th International Conference on Bird Census and Atlas Work. Bird Census and Atlas Studies. Institute of Applied Ecology and Ecotechnology, Czech Ornithological Society, Inst. of Systematic & Ecological Biology 1990.