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Why did millions of sparrows disappear?

Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny
Gaston de Persigny - Reporter at The European Times News

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According to a new study, house sparrows in Europe are 247 million less than in 1980, and other once ubiquitous bird species have suffered huge declines, according to the Guardian.

In less than four decades, one in six birds has disappeared – a total of 600 million nesting birds. Among the common species that have disappeared from the sky are the yellow bunting (97 million less), starlings (75 million less) and larks (68 million less).

A study by scientists from RSPB, BirdLife International and the Czech Ornithological Society analyzed data on 378 of the 445 bird species inhabiting the EU and the UK, finding that the total number of nesting birds fell by between 17% and 19% between 1980 and 2017

The general and proportional reduction in the number of birds is particularly large among the species associated with agricultural land.

The house sparrow has been hardest hit, losing half of its population, while its close relative, the tree sparrow, has seen a decline of 30 million birds. Both species have declined due to changing agricultural practices, but house sparrows have also disappeared from many cities for reasons that have not yet been identified, but probably include food shortages, diseases such as avian malaria and air pollution.

There are 4 species on the territory of Bulgaria – the most widespread is the house sparrow, and in the villages and among the nature there are the field sparrow, the rock sparrow and the relatively newly registered species with low numbers – the Spanish sparrow.

Although the intensification of agricultural habitats, which is leading to habitat loss, and chemical farming, which is causing a large decline in the insects that many birds feed on, have led to declining populations of many of them migrating long distances, such as the birch songbird. and yellow-tailed deer have decreased proportionately more than the other groups. Coastal birds such as the common nun and the mountain rainforest have also declined.

“Our study is a signal of a real threat of extinction and a ‘quiet spring,'” said Fiona Burns, lead author of the study and a senior environmental scientist at RSPB.

Burns said next year’s meeting of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity is crucial to creating a stable framework for preventing the extinction and restoring the lost abundance of many species.

She added: “We need transformative action across society to tackle nature and climate crises. This means increasing the scale and ambition of green farming, species conservation, sustainable forestry and fisheries, and rapid expanding the network of protected areas. “

Although a total of 900 million birds have become extinct, the number of 203 of the 378 species studied has increased. 66% of the additional 340 million birds are of only eight species that are experiencing a boom: the great black-headed nettle, the fir songbird, the blackbird, the nutcracker, the goldfinch, the red-throated diver, the wild pigeon and the blue tit.

The number of 11 species of birds of prey has more than doubled since 1980, such as the peregrine falcon, marsh harrier, buzzard, snake eagle and bald eagle, although these species are relatively rare and therefore their populations are still mostly small. . Scientists claim that these birds of prey have benefited from increased protection and reduction of harmful pesticides and persecution, as well as from specific species recovery projects. The Birds Directive and the EU Habitats Directive have also provided legal protection for priority species and habitats that have been identified as beneficial to bird species.

Although the rate of decline of many species has slowed over the last decade, the decline is not only a consequence of harmful practices from previous decades, but the study supports previous research that reveals significant biodiversity loss in recent times.

The scale of the loss and the species of endangered birds are comparable to the declining populations in North America, where 3 billion birds have disappeared since 1970.

Anna Staneva, acting head of BirdLife Europe’s environmental department, said: “This report clearly and strongly shows that nature is alarming.

Although the protection of birds that are already rare or endangered has led to some successful restorations, this does not seem to be enough to maintain populations of numerous species. Ordinary birds are becoming less common, mainly because the areas on which they depend have been destroyed by humans. Nature has been uprooted from our agricultural lands, seas and cities. Governments across Europe must set legally binding goals for nature restoration. Otherwise, the consequences will be severe, including for our own species. “

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