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Bird numbers plummeting

Numbers of common wild birds have dropped by almost half a billion over a 30-year period

THERE are now almost half a billion fewer common birds in Europe than there were in the 1980s, new research by ecologists shows.

A study published by a leading scientific journal based in Montpellier, Ecology Letters, shows numbers down 421 million over a 30-year period.

The equated to a more than 20% drop over the study period (from 1980-2009).

The alarming decline, which the scientists say is unprecedented, is linked to modern farming methods and disappearance of habitat.

A few well-known species, like house sparrows, common starlings, skylarks and grey partridge saw especially heavy losses. On the other hand numbers of certain rare birds have actually increased in recent years thanks to conservation efforts, the scientists say.

Efforts to slow decline of bird populations have focussed on rarer species, at risk of extinction, and there has been less interest in common ones despite the fact that they have more importance to the ecosystem.

The scientists say farming methods need to change, there needs to be more green spaces in urban areas, and efforts to save rare birds must be matched with more for effort to help the common ones.

The study used data on 144 common species (there are 520 kinds of wild European bird overall) and 90% of losses were from the 36 most common, widespread ones. Total numbers declined over the study period from about 2.1billion to 1.6billion – though, on a more positive note, the drop was most rapid in the first half of the study period, with more stability in the later years.

• See Connexion’s October issue for information on identifying birds in your garden. If you missed it back issues can be bought at: Back Issues

Photo: Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

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