The long-term trends in bird populations demonstrate that Europe has experienced a major decline in biodiversity.

The European Union (EU) protects over 460 species of wild birds throughout their entire life cycle under the EU Birds Directive. According to the latest assessment, around half of these wild bird species have a good population status at the EU level, which is slightly less (5%) compared to the last reporting period (2008-2012). In the last six years, the proportion of birds having poor and bad conservation status has increased by 7% to reach a total of 39%.

Whilst 47% of 463 bird species in the EU are in good conservation status, 39% are in poor and bad conservation status.   

Alt text: Infographic showing the conservation status and short-term trends of various European bird taxa. Long description: The infographic is split roughly into two halves, with information about conservation status making up the top half and information about trends making up the bottom half. In the top half, we see three colored boxes with text on the left side, white silhouettes of seabirds in the middle, and a pie chart depicting the relative proportions of birds with good (47%), poor (20%), bad (19%), and unknown (14%) conservation status. The text in the boxes reads, from top box to bottom: 1. Less than half of all bird species have a good population status in the EU, while almost 40% have poor or bad status. 2. 14% of all bird species have an unknown status due to the lack of information about their population sizes and trends. 3. Almost half of all waterbirds, including seabirds, have poor or bad status and show higher deterioration trends.  The bottom half mirrors the top half, with 3 text boxes on the right, a silhouette of a buzzard in the middle, and a pie chart on the left. The pie chart depicts the population trends of European birds. 23% are increasing, 28% are stable, 2% are unknown, 30% are decreasing, and 17% are fluctuating. The text in the boxes reads, from top box to bottom: 1. Storks, herons and pelicans, grebes, loons, pigeons and doves, and owls each have a good status for more than half of species. 2. Seabirds are also among the groups with the most unknown short-term trends. 3. Among raptors, over 50% have a good population status and many with a poor or bad status are improving. However, over 50% of falcons and harriers have a bad status.

Despite some improvements, progress has not been substantial to halt the deterioration in the population trends of EU bird species. This indicates that additional efforts will be needed to attain knowledge and reverse the current trends for the benefit of nature and people.

  • Breeding birds have the highest share of reports showing improving population trends, thanks to the implementation of habitat protection or restoration, and improvements in knowledge, better monitoring and awareness.
  • The proportion of wintering bird species, with increasing short-and/or long-term trends, has dropped by 9% when compared to the last reporting period (2008-2012).
  • Farmland and forest birds have seen few improvements.
  • 14% of all bird species have an unknown status. This highlights the need to establish or re-enforce appropriate, coordinated, state-supported monitoring schemes in all Member States.

For the complete analysis of bird populations, see the latest EEA report on the ‘State of nature’.

Background information: Why do we monitor bird populations?

Birds are sensitive to environmental change and their population numbers can reflect transformations in ecosystems. Therefore, monitoring the abundance and distribution of bird populations can be excellent barometers of the health of the environment. In this regard, the EEA assessment on the ‘State of nature’ provides information on the size and trends of bird populations, their breeding distribution and trends, as well as their main pressures and measures that are taken; it also includes the role of Natura 2000 sites.