July 31, 2021

The population of birds in towns and fields in France has declined by nearly 30% in thirty years

It is a massacre. Already widely known, but which continues. In thirty years, the populations of birds in agricultural areas have fallen by 29.5%, and those of birds living in urban areas have fallen by 27.6%. The National Museum of Natural History (MNHN), the French Office for Biodiversity (OFB) and the League for the Protection of Birds (LPO) take stock, Monday, May 31, of thirty years of monitoring common birds in France . A program launched in 1989 and whose protocol was revised twenty years ago, in 2001.

At the time of sounding the alarm once again, scientists and association leaders are expressing their sadness and their frustration at repeating the same thing over and over again, without anything changing.

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“Unfortunately, we had no surprises when it came time to take stock, regrets Benoît Fontaine, who coordinates the Temporary monitoring of common birds (STOC) program for the Museum and the OFB. We see every year that the populations of specialist birds, that is to say birds that do well in a particular type of habitat, collapse. It is sad to think that the alerts or the measures that have been taken are not enough. “ Frédéric Jiguet, professor at the Museum and ornithologist, talks about a “Immense feeling of helplessness and ineffectiveness”. “It is a real observation of failure, to continue to communicate on the decline of sparrows, linnets, swallows”, he said.

“Banalization and standardization of biodiversity”

Out of 123 species among the most common in France, 43 were in decline in 2019, including the European goldfinch, the turtledove and the window swallow. Among the birds of the most affected fields, the farlouse pipit is one of the species that has experienced the most severe decline since 2001: two thirds of its numbers have disappeared.

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On the contrary, 32 species were in expansion – the others having known stable or uncertain evolutions. The wood pigeon, for example, has seen its numbers double since 2001 and is present everywhere, in town, in the mountains or in the forest. The population of great tits, which can settle in urban centers as well as in the Mediterranean scrubland, has increased by 7% in twenty years.

“These generalist birds, that is to say birds which adapt to any type of environment, have prospered by taking the place of declining birds, explains Caroline Moussy, head of bird surveys at the LPO. This contributes to the trivialization and standardization of biodiversity. “ Since 1989, generalist species have experienced an increase of 19.4%, which has however slowed down over the past ten years. In the forests, bird populations have declined by 10%, but have stabilized since the 2000s, after declining significantly.

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