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Article: Populations trends of European common birds 2003

Population trends and indices of selected 48 common bird species in Europe, which have been produced by Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme, are presented for each species. The report can be downloaded in pdf format.

Producing European indices and indicators would not have been possible without the efforts of the many ornithologists across Europe who kindly cooperated in the project, provided us with national indices or helped us in other ways to get the data. All contributors are listed below, and we are very grateful to all of them.

> Austria - Norbert Teufelbauer, Michael Dvorak;
> Belgium - Christian Vansteenwegen, Anne Weiserbs, Jean-Paul Jacob, Anny Anselin;
> Czech Republic - Karel Šťastný, Vladimír Bejček;
> Denmark - Michael Grell, Erik Mandrup Jacobsen, Henning Heldbjerg;
> Estonia - Andres Kuresoo;
> France - Frederic Jiguet;
> Germany - Martin Flade, Johannes Schwarz;
> Hungary - Tibor Szep;
> Ireland - Olivia Crowe;
> Italy - Lorenzo Fornasari;
> Latvia - Ainars Aunins;
> Norway - Magne Husby;
> Poland - Przemek Chylarecki;
> Spain - Juan Carlos del Moral, Ramón Martí;
> Sweden - Ake Lindström;
> Switzerland - Hans Schmid;
> UK – David Noble.

Data analysis has been done in close cooperation and with help of Arco Van Strien and Adriaan Gmelig Meyling at Statistics Netherlands. Richard Gregory (RSPB), David Noble (BTO) and Ruud Foppen (SOVON) contributed also by many valuable suggestions and comments. We also thank all those who have supported the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring scheme, we are grateful to Nicola Crockford (RSPB), Norbert Schaffer (RSPB), Ward Hagemeijer (Wetlands International), Dominique Richard, Grégoire Loïs, Vibeke Horlyck and the European Topic Centre on Nature Protection & Biodiversity/European Environment Agency for comment and support.

Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Project is a joint project of BirdLife International and the European Bird Census Council, funded by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds. The project would not have been possible without the fieldwork of thousands of volunteer ornithologists across Europe.

Population trend information for 48 selected terrestrial breeding birds came from annually operated surveys spanning different periods of operation from 18 European countries through the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring scheme. The computer package TRIM (http://zeus.nyf.hu/~szept/trim.htm), which allows for missing counts by estimation and yields yearly indices and standard errors using Poisson regression, was used to calculate national species’ indices. In a second run of TRIM, we grouped countries that were similar in character and close in proximity (north, south, east & west) so that missing values for species could be estimated from similar neighbouring countries. We then used TRIM to combine the national indices into supranational indices for species, weighted by estimates of national population sizes (BirdLife International/European bird Census Council 2000; Pannekoek, & van Strien 2001; van Strien et al. 2001). Weighting allows for the fact that different countries hold different proportions of the species’ European population (van Strien et al. 2001). This means a change in a larger population has greater impact on the overall trend than a change in a smaller national population. Supranational indices for species were then combined (on a geometric scale) to create multi-species indicators (Gregory et al. 2003). Although national schemes differ in count methods in the field and in other respects, these differences should not influence the supranational results because the standardised indices from TRIM were combined. We cannot, however, exclude the possibility that bias within national schemes, for example, due to representation and sampling strategy, or operation of field methods, might introduce bias into the European trends, although we would argue that this would result in little directional bias.
Countries contributing trend information were: Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Federal Republic of Germany, Ireland, Italy, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and United Kingdom (European Union countries); Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Czech Republic, and Hungary (countries acceded to the EU in 2004); plus Norway and Switzerland.
Expert ornithologists (Vorisek 2002) selected 24-bird species characteristic of either woodland, parks and gardens or agricultural habitats in Europe. The birds selected had large European ranges, were abundant enough to be monitored accurately in the majority of countries by common bird monitoring schemes, were well monitored by standard field methods, and were considered to some degree dependent on the habitat for nesting or feeding. Agricultural species selected were: Alauda arvensis, Athene noctua, Carduelis cannabina, Carduelis carduelis, Carduelis chloris, Columba palumbus, Corvus corone, Corvus monedula, Coturnix coturnix, Emberiza citrinella, Emberiza schoeniclus, Falco subbuteo, Falco tinnunculus, Hirundo rustica, Lanius collurio, Miliaria calandra, Motacilla flava, Passer montanus, Pica pica, Saxicola rubetra, Streptopelia turtur, Sturnus vulgaris, Sylvia communis, Vanellus vanellus. The woodland, park and garden species selected were: Accipiter nisus, Aegithalos caudatus, Anthus trivialis, Buteo buteo, Dendrocopos major, Erithacus rubecula, Fringilla coelebs, Garrulus glandarius, Jynx torquilla, Muscicapa striata, Parus ater, Parus caeruleus, Parus major, Phoenicurus phoenicurus, Phylloscopus collybita, Phylloscopus trochilus, Prunella modularis, Regulus regulus, Sylvia atricapilla, Sylvia borin, Troglodytes troglodytes, Turdus merula, Turdus philomelos, Turdus viscivorus. Species in bold type were classified as specialists of farmland or woodland according the the following sources of information on species‘ habitat requirements: the European breeding Atlas (Hagemeijer & Blair 1997) and publication by Tucker & Heath (1994). Furthermore, national monitoring coordinators provided us with their own assesment – proportion of a species‘ national population breeding in a given habitat type in four categories (less than 25%, 25 to 50%, 50 to 75%, more than 75%).

Multi-species indicators were produced and report can be downloaded at http://www.rspb.org.uk/international/policy/indicators.asp. On average, populations of common generalist birds in Europe have remained stable over the last twenty years, although numbers have fluctuated in response to winter conditions (trend 1980-2002 = -2%). Common specialists birds of forest have declined to a small degree (trend 1980-2002 = -7%). Populations of common specialist birds of farmland, in contrast, have declined sharply, especially in the 1980s, and the downward trend continues at a slower rate (trend 1980-2002 = -42%). This reflects deterioration in the quality of farmland habitats, affecting both birds and other elements of biodiversity. There is abundant evidence that declines among farmland birds in Europe have been driven by agricultural intensification.

> BirdLife International/European bird Census Council. 2000. European bird populations: estimates and trends. Cambridge, UK, BirdLife Conservation Series No. 10.
>Gregory, R.D., Noble, D., Field, R., Marchant, J.H, Raven, M. & Gibbons D.W. 2003. Using birds as indicators of biodiversity. Ornis Hungaria 12-13, (in press).
> Hagemeijer, E.J.M. & Blair, M.J. (eds) 1997. The EBCC Atlas of European breeding birds: their distribution and abundance. Poyser, London.
> Pannekoek, J. & van Strien, A.J. 2001. TRIM 3 Manual. TRends and Indices for Monitoring Data. Research paper no. 0102. Statistics Netherlands, Voorburg, The Netherlands.
> Tucker, G.M. & Heath, M.H. 1994. Birds in Europe: their conservation status. Cambridge, U.K: BirdLife International.
> van Strien, A. J., Pannekoek, J., & Gibbons, D. W. 2001. Indexing European bird population trends using results of national monitoring schemes: a trial of a new method. Bird Study 48, 200-213.
> Vorisek, P. (ed) (2002): Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Project workshop. Prague 16-19 September 2002. CD-ROM, Czech Society for Ornithology, Czech Republic.

Explanatory notes to the table "Trends of species in Europe":
Europe – all 18 countries which provided the data.
Trend – multiplicative trend over the time period given in parentheses.
% change – percentage change in the index over the period given.
Trends were not available for some species and particular period because of sparse data, see individual species.

Trends of species in Europe

Farmland species

Scientific English Trend
Change (%)
Falco tinnunculus Common Kestrel 0.99 -14.7
Falco subbuteo Hobby 0.97 -
Coturnix coturnix Quail 1.15-
Vanellus vanellus Northern Lapwing 0.97-63.5
Columba palumbus Common Wood-pigeon 1.0275.4
Streptopelia turtur European Turtle-dove 0.96-60.6
Athene noctua Little Owl 0.98-58.1
Alauda arvensis Eurasian Skylark 0.97-39.7
Hirundo rustica Barn Swallow 0.99 -24.5
Motacilla flava Yellow Wagtail 0.98-34.1
Saxicola rubetra Whinchat 0.99 -14.6
Sylvia communis Common Whitethroat 0.98 25.0
Lanius collurio Red-backed Shrike 0.99 57.1
Pica pica Black-billed Magpie 1.02 22.1
Corvus monedula Eurasian Jackdaw 1.01 12.8
Corvus corone Carrion Crows 1.01 19.4
Sturnus vulgaris Common Starling 0.96 -48.7
Passer montanus Eurasian Tree Sparrow 0.91 -82.1
Carduelis chloris European Greenfinch 0.99 15.7
Carduelis carduelis European Goldfinch 0.99 5.3
Carduelis cannabina Eurasian Linnet 0.96 -52.1
Emberiza citrinella Yellowhammer 0.98 -39.3
Emberiza schoeniclus Reed Bunting 0.98 -20.0
Miliaria calandra Corn Bunting 0.94 -66.2

Woodland, park and garden species

Scientific English Trend
Change (%)
Accipiter nisus Eurasian Sparrowhawk 1.03 153.8
Buteo buteo Common Buzzard 1.04 81.0
Jynx torquilla Eurasian Wryneck 0.96 -59.5
Dendrocopos major Great Spotted Woodpecker 1.02 3.3
Anthus trivialis Tree Pipit 0.97 -44.5
Troglodytes troglodytes Winter Wren 1.01 51.4
Prunella modularis Hedge Accentor 0.97 -37.3
Erithacus rubecula European Robin 1 10.4
Phoenicurus phoenicurus Common Redstart 0.99 -14.4
Turdus merula Eurasian Blackbird 0.99 0.9
Turdus philomelos Song Thrush 0.97 -10.8
Turdus viscivorus Mistle Thrush 0.98 -6.4
Sylvia borin Garden Warbler 1 -8.0
Sylvia atricapilla Blackcap 1.02 85.3
Phylloscopus collybita Common Chiffchaff 1 38.8
Phylloscopus trochilus Willow Warbler 0.98 -28.8
Regulus regulus Goldcrest 0.99 -28.0
Muscicapa striata Spotted Flycatcher 0.96 -56,6
Aegithalos caudatus Long-tailed Tit 1 41.7
Parus ater Coal Tit 1-7.9
Parus caeruleus Blue Tit 1 13.0
Parus major Great Tit 1 4.0
Garrulus glandarius Eurasian Jay 0.99 1.9
Fringilla coelebs Chaffinch 1 -2.0

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