Common French bird species facing an “ relentless ” decline
From city centers to rural fields, human activity has decimated populations of the most common bird species in France, scientists warned Monday, citing data collected over 30 years by volunteer ornithologists.
Between 1989 and 2019, more than 2,000 French bird enthusiasts participated in the monitoring of the 123 most common bird species in the country through the Tracking Common Birds Over Time (STOC) program.
The effort is sponsored by the French National Museum of Natural History, whose findings President Bruno David called “relentless”.
More than a third of common French bird species are in decline, including the European goldfinch, European dove, common martin and 40 others, the museum reported.
The largest population declines have been seen on farmland, where the number has fallen by 30 percent in 30 years, followed by urban areas, which have seen declines of around 28 percent.
Forest birds have behaved somewhat better, with their numbers falling 10 percent over the past three decades.
‘Massacre’ in the fields
Conservation biologist Benoit Fontaine, a researcher at the National Museum, on Monday described the loss of birds in agricultural land as a “massacre” at a press conference.
In 2018, Fontaine published a study detailing the decline. “Our countryside is becoming a real desert,” he said at the time.
In a joint press release, the National Museum, the French League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) and other organizations said even tree sparrows and swallows – which had adapted to city conditions – were now suffering. .
“The transformation of buildings and the renovation of facades destroy the holes in which certain species have made nests,” he said.
“The growing encroachment of cities is reducing their sources of food, while pollution from transport and industrial activities also threatens their health.”
Fontaine highlighted the use of powerful neonicotinoid insecticides that decimate the main food source for birds, as well as the mechanization of agriculture, land clearing and the destruction of row hedges.
LPO President Allain Bougrain-Dubourg said he hoped the findings would feed into the ongoing negotiations on the European Union’s common agricultural policy.
“If we don’t go far enough to fundamentally change our ways, we won’t get away with it,” he said.
In addition to agricultural and urban challenges, climate change is pushing some populations further north, and hunting and poaching also threaten some species.
Biodiversity organizations are working to ban the hunting of species considered endangered in France, as well as controversial traditional methods, such as trapping birds with glue.
French countryside bird populations ‘collapse’
© 2021 AFP
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