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Intensive agriculture threatens farmland birds

Long-term progress:
Farmland bird populations are decreasing at a much faster pace than the numbers of urban birds are increasing.
Short-term progress:
After a more balanced period in the early 2000s, farmland bird populations have again decreased over the last five years. Urban and suburban birds have also declined in recent years, mainly due to lower numbers of pheasants and a disease affecting greenfinches.
Progress in relation to targets:
Halting the loss of biodiversity would require continuing viability in the populations of all species.

Farmland bird populations in 1979–2012

Farmland bird populations

The farmland bird indicator describes the populations of 11 farmland birds. Birds included in the indicator are lapwing, curlew, skylark, barn swallow, whinchat, greater whitethroat, red-backed shrike, starling, common rosefinch, yellowhammer and ortolan bunting. Source: Finnish Museum of Natural History. 2013.

Urban and suburban bird populations in 1979–2012

Urban and suburban bird populations

The urban bird indicator describes the populations of 14 bird species. Birds included in the indicator are common pheasant, stock dove, wood pigeon, common swift, house martin, white wagtail, fieldfare, blue tit, great tit, magpie, jackdaw, hooded crow, greenfinch and house sparrow. The recent decline in urban and suburban bird populations is due to declining numbers of pheasants, and avian trichomoniasis affecting greenfinches. Source: Finnish Museum of Natural History. 2013.

Urban birds thriving

Since the 1950s, Europe's farmland bird populations have decreased by one half. This has also happened in Finland.

The change in agriculture from diversified traditional cultivation dominated by dairy cattle to specialised and regionally concentrated intensive farming, has made the rural landscape more monotonous and less suitable for birds. Subsurface draining has reduced nesting sites and hiding places for birds, and nesting birds are more often disturbed by heavy farming machinery. Increased use of mineral fertilisers and pesticides have an indirect effect through the food chain while the retreat of semi-natural grasslands has diminished the number of food insects for birds.

The decrease in farmland bird populations is partly explained by conditions in wintering grounds and along migration routes. Farmland birds include resident species and short-distance migrants as well as long-distance migrants which overwinter in Sub-Saharan Africa or in Asia. Regardless of their migrant behaviour, the populations of various farmland birds have seen a similar decline.

Populations of urban birds, for instance birds nesting in parks and buildings, have increased in the last three decades. Many urban and suburban birds, such as greenfinch, great tit, and blue tit, have increased thanks to winter feeding which has lowered their wintertime mortality.



Published 2015-08-19 at 12:24, updated 2016-07-22 at 14:48