Europe and Central Asia
15 Dec 2015

Why we need two Red Lists of Birds

An Atlantic Puffin with sandeels. Their threat level has been uplisted this year in the Red List. Photo: Chris Gomersall/RSPB
By Christina Ieronymidou

In June 2015 BirdLife launched the European Red List of Birds at Green Week, the annual conference on EU environment policy in Brussels (you can watch a recording of the event here).

The project allowed us to build a detailed picture of bird population sizes and trends of all 533 wild bird species across the continent, and assess their status (building on the Birds in Europe volumes of 1994 and 2004). The results show that 13% of species are threatened in Europe (10 are Critically Endangered, 18 are Endangered and 39 are Vulnerable) by dangers like loss of habitat and food sources, hunting, illegal killing and climate change.

What is the European Red List of Birds?

Funded by the European Commission, the project was coordinated by BirdLife with the involvement of a broad consortium, including the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), Wetlands International (WI), the European Bird Census Council (EBCC), the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB / BirdLife in the UK), the Czech Society for Ornithology (CSO/ BirdLife in the Czech Republic), the British Trust for Ornithology (BTO) and Sovon Vogelonderzoek Nederland.

For the first time ever, the data-set for the EU was almost fully based on official reporting by Member States under the Birds Directive. Data from the rest of Europe came from national bird monitoring schemes and organisations across Europe, including BirdLife International Partners.

While the proportion of threatened bird species in Europe may not have changed much since 2004, the list shows the threat level for many individual species has changed for the better or worse.

Targeted conservation efforts, often supported by the Birds Directive and the EU LIFE programme, have helped bring species such as the White-headed Duck, Zino’s Petrel, Azores Bullfinch, Bearded Vulture and Dalmatian Pelican back from the brink of extinction. On the other hand, many species have been uplisted or have not improved, despite being identified as in danger a decade ago. This includes the Egyptian Vulture, European Turtle-dove, Atlantic Puffin and Common Eider.

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Why is it important?

The results of the European Red List of Birds have been used by several BirdLife Partners to feed into national Red Lists, species prioritisation for conservation efforts and national policy campaigns.

The results have also had a direct impact on the global Red List of birds. This was updated in October this year, with a number of iconic species uplisted to higher threat categories owing to loss of habitat, food sources, illegal killing and other dangers. For example, the Northern Lapwing and Eurasian Oystercatcher were uplisted to Near Threatened, the Atlantic Puffin and Eurasian Turtle-dove (which was earlier of Least Concern) are now Vulnerable.

Red Lists aside, EU data were used to assess progress to Target 1(ii) of the EU Biodiversity Strategy: “By 2020, 50% more species assessed under the Birds Directive show a secure or improved status”. 

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.