A study published on November 17 found that there are 600 million fewer birds in Europe than there were just 40 years ago.
The study was led by the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), which looked at data estimating the populations of 378 species on the continent. One of the study’s most shocking revelations was the loss of 247 million house sparrows, one of Europe’s most common birds.
The study’s lead author, Dr. Fiona Burns, said that the study will have a sobering effect on the general public, painting a picture of the profound loss of species extinction:
“Our study is a wake-up call to the very real threat of extinctions and of a Silent Spring, and we are fully supportive of ensuring a strong framework which puts conservation front and centre of any global plans.”
Burns added that the study was also a call to action, saying that “We need transformative action across society to tackle the nature and climate crises together. That means increasing the scale and ambition of nature-friendly farming, species protection, sustainable forestry and fisheries, and rapidly expanding the protected area network.”
The study was a collaboration between British and Czech researchers and was published last month in Ecology and Evolution.
Conservation groups dedicated to preserving bird species have responded to the study with devastation, but also with a reinvigorated will to help species in danger. BirdLife International, a conservation group that worked with the research team, said that they also hoped that the study would be a springboard to protect Europe’s birds and biodiversity.
The organization’s interim head of conservation in Europe, Anna Staneva, said “This report loudly and clearly shows that nature is sounding the alarm. While protecting birds that are already rare or endangered has resulted in some successful recoveries, this doesn’t seem to be enough to sustain the populations of abundant species.”
Ivory-billed woodpecker declared extinct by US government
The ivory-billed woodpecker, the best-known American species that had been declared threatened years ago, was declared extinct, along with 22 other species, by the U.S. government in September.
The iconic bird — which several bird watchers believed they saw just a few years ago in a swamp in the South — along with a range of other birds, fish, and other animals, is now considered extinct.
In a move rarely taken by federal officials, hope has now been given up on trying to locate surviving individuals of the species, while they warn that climate change, working in tandem with other dangers to their welfare, could lead to more such declarations.
Bird lovers have been combing the swamps and forestlands of the South in recent years, sure that the fleeting images captured by several of them in past decades showed ivory-billed woodpecker individuals.
The ivory-billed woodpecker is perhaps the best known — and certainly best-loved — species that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to declare extinct. The declaration may come as especially disturbing to wildlife lovers after making unconfirmed appearances in recent years that spurred innumerable fruitless searches in swamps throughout Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Florida.
The grainy black and white image above, from 1935, part of newsreel footage, comprises the last proof of ivory bills in the wild.