Europe Loses 421 Million Birds in 30 Years

Photo by Gert“Hear the word of the Lord, you Israelites, because the Lord has a charge to bring against you who live in the land: ‘There is no faithfulness, no love, no acknowledgment of God in the land. There is only cursing, lying and murder, stealing and adultery; they break all bounds, and bloodshed follows bloodshed. Because of this the land dries up, and all who live in it waste away; the beasts of the field, the birds of the sky and the fish in the sea are swept away.'” (Hosea 4:1-3)

According to a study released in the science journal, Ecology Letters, this week, Europe has an estimated 421 million fewer birds than three decades ago. The decline in bird populations can be linked to modern farming methods, deterioration of the quality of the environment, and habitat fragmentation, although the relative importance of these pressures remains unclear.

“This is a warning from birds throughout Europe. It is clear that the way we are managing the environment is unsustainable for many of our most familiar species,” said Richard Gregory of the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, which co-led the study. “The conservation and legal protection of all birds and their habitats in tandem are essential to reverse declines.”

Richard Inger from the Environment and Sustainability Institute at the University of Exeter’s Penryn campus in Cornwall said, “It is becoming increasingly clear that interaction with the natural world and wildlife is central to human wellbeing and significant loss of common birds could be quite detrimental to human society.”

Humans need birds. We rely on them to control agricultural pests, disperse seeds, and remove carcasses from the environment. But we need them for other reasons: who can deny the beauty of a bird’s song and the enjoyment of watching birds hunt and peck in a garden or fly overhead? In the United States, John Audubon’s drawings of birds are a source of national pride. A loss of any of God’s creatures doesn’t just hurt our society, it also hurts our spirits.

Interestingly, not all bird species are declining. Around 90 percent of the losses were from the 36 most common species including house sparrows, skylarks, grey partridges, and starlings. But other bird species such as great tits, robins, blue tits, and blackbirds are increasing, along with populations of rarer species like marsh harriers, ravens, buzzards, and stone curlews. The numbers show the power of direct conservation efforts as well as legal protections — a power that we can exercise at anytime.

In the Bible, the Lord says that a lack of faithfulness, love, and acknowledgement of God will dry up the land and waste its species. Whether you believe these words or not, it is clear that only our carelessness for these birds is to blame for their disappearance, as well as the loss of half of Earth’s wildlife in the past 40 years. We shouldn’t pick and choose which creatures survive. We shouldn’t need laws to remind us to preserve nature.

If we live with greater love and respect for creation, we can guarantee that future generations will enjoy the singing birds of spring, the bounce of a sparrow, and all the diversity and variety of life Earth has to offer.

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About the Author

I'm an organic-eating, energy-saving naturalist who composts and tree hugs in her spare time. I have a background in environmental law, lobbying, and field work. I believe in God; however, I do not call myself a Christian or a Jew or a member of any religion. I am merely someone who finds a spiritual connection to all humans and the environment. You can find me on Twitter, Facebook, and .