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Sad news – 600 million breeding birds have disappeared in the EU

It only took 40 years – and millions of birds are gone.

According to a study, around 600 million breeding birds have disappeared in the European Union. “These are hardly imposing large birds, but the many inconspicuous finches, sparrows and larks that bring our meadows and fields to life”, says Leif Miller, Managing Director of the Nature Conservation Union (NABU).

Scientists from the British bird protection organization RSPB, the international umbrella organization of NABU BirdLife International and the Czech Ornithological Society have evaluated data from 378 of the 445 bird species native to the EU between 1980 and 2017.

The house sparrow is particularly affected with a decline of 247 million animals, followed by the wagtail with 97 million, the starfish with 75 million and the skylark with 68 million animals.

Much research has already been carried out into the causes of the sparrows, in particular, which recorded declines in both urban and rural areas. But there are still no reliable findings, reports lead author Fiona Burns. Air pollution and a reduced food supply may have played a role.

But the study also gives cause for hope, says Burns. The majority of the decreases were registered in the first half of the study period. From other studies it is known that species programs and EU guidelines have helped many birds.

“The significant decline in biodiversity in recent times shows, however, that further extensive conservation measures are still required,” says NABU bird protection expert Eric Neuling. “There is an urgent need to protect birds associated with agriculture, as well as long-distance migratory birds such as the yellow wagtail and fitis on their migratory routes,” adds the expert.

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