The population of the house sparrow in Europe has decreased by as much as half since the early 1980s, according to a report by an international group of researchers. There are also species whose populations have increased, but the analysis of the number of birds clearly shows that “nature is sounding the alarm”.
A study by scientists from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, BirdLife International and the Czech Ornithological Society, analyzed data on 378 out of 445 bird species found in the EU and UK. Researchers found that the overall number of breeding birds decreased by 17-19 percent between 1980 and 2017.
Over the course of almost 40 years, nearly 600 million breeding birds have disappeared. Popular species that are disappearing include the yellow wagtail (Motacilla flava), of which there are 97 million less, starlings (Sturnus vulgaris), of which 75 million were lost, and the larks (Alauda arvensis) with a population smaller by 68 million.
A drastic decline in the household sparrow population
According to experts, the population of the domestic sparrow (Passer domesticus), which has fallen by 247 million, or half, since 1980. Also the number of the field sparrow (Passer montanus) has dropped drastically. Both species have declined due to changing agricultural practices – intensification of agriculture causes loss of bird habitats, and chemical treatment of agriculture leads to a large decline in the number of insects that eat them. In addition, house sparrows have disappeared from many cities for reasons that have yet to be determined, but are likely related to food shortages, disease and air pollution.
“Our research is a wake-up call,” said Fiona Burns, lead author of the study. – We need actions that will allow us to face the crisis related to nature and climate. This means more nature-friendly agriculture, sustainable forestry and fishing, and the rapid expansion of the network of protected areas, she added.
There are more of these birds
The research shows that the numbers of 203 out of 378 bird species studied increased. Sixty-six percent of the 340 million additional birds came from just eight species. They were blackheads (Poecile montanus), finches (Fringilla coelebs), scythes (Turdus merula), wren (Troglodytes troglodytes), goldfinch (Carduelis carduelis), wood pigeons (Columba palumbus), robins (Erithacus rubecula) and weavers (Ploceus philippinus).
In addition, the number of 11 species of birds of prey has more than doubled since 1980, including the Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus), marsh harrier (Circus aeruginosus), buzzard (Buteo buteo), golden eagle (Aquila chrysaetos). However, it should be remembered that their populations are still mostly small. “This report is loud and clear that nature is sounding the alarm,” said Anna Staneva, interim head of wildlife conservation at BirdLife Europe.
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