Europe and Central Asia

BirdLife Europe & Central Asia Press Release - 23 April 2018

‘State of the World’s Birds’ – global assessment takes pulse of the planet’s extinction threat

Many ‘common’ bird species are now at risk of extinction, due to climate change, illegal killing and unsustainable agriculture – the single greatest driver of bird extinction worldwide. In Europe, the state of enigmatic species such as the Snowy Owl, Atlantic Puffin, and European Turtle-dove is particularly worrisome. These are the alarming findings of State of the World’s Birds 2018, the latest report on the health of global bird populations, compiled by BirdLife International [1].

With the tagline “Taking the Pulse of the Planet”, State of the World’s Birds is a major global assessment that uses bird species to measure the health of our ecosystems as a whole. Five years in the making, this comprehensive report shows that many of the world’s 11,000 bird species are in dire straits [2]. At least 40% of these species are in decline, and one in eight bird species is globally threatened with extinction.

Human actions are responsible for most threats to birds. Foremost among these threats are: agricultural expansion and intensification, which impacts 1,091 globally threatened birds (74%); logging, affecting 734 species (50%); invasive alien species, which threaten 578 (39%) species; and hunting and trapping, which put 517 (35%) species at risk. Climate change represents an emerging and increasingly serious threat—currently affecting 33% of globally threatened species—and one that often exacerbates existing threats.

The report also delivers a message of hope. At least 25 bird species – such as the Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina – would have gone extinct without conservation action over recent decades,

Tris Allinson, Senior Global Science Officer, BirdLife International: “The data are unequivocal. We are undergoing a steady and continuing deterioration in the status of the world’s birds. Roughly one in eight species now faces extinction. This includes once widespread and abundant species that only a few decades ago were a familiar sight across great swathes of the planet.”  

The continued deterioration of the world’s birds is a major concern for the health of our planet; birds provide a wide variety of ecosystem services, such as controlling insect pest populations, and dispersing plant seeds. Bird population trends often mirror those of other species, and are highly responsive to environmental change; they act as the “canaries in the coalmine”, reflecting a wider environmental malaise.

For further information:

Alex Dale, Head of Communications, BirdLife International

00 44 1 223 747 608


[1] The report is launched today at the BirdLife-convened Summit for the Flyways in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Download State of the World’s Birds 2018 at

[2] Key findings from ‘State of the World’s Birds 2018’

Until recently, the Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola was one of Eurasia’s most abundant bird species, breeding across the northern Palaearctic from Finland to Japan. However, since 1980, its population has declined by 90%, while its range has contracted by 5,000 km, and BirdLife has now assessed the species as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List – meaning that the species is facing an extremely high risk of extinction.

The European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur was once a familiar migrant to Europe, Central Asia and the Middle East from the Sahel zone of Africa. Because of habitat loss and hunting, the species is now declining across its range, especially in Western Europe, and its conservation status has recently been re-classified as Vulnerable to extinction.

The widely recognized Snowy Owl Bubo scandiacus, occurring throughout the Arctic tundra of the Northern Hemisphere, is experiencing a rapid decline, most likely connected to climate change: changes to snowmelt and snow cover can affect the availability and distribution of prey. The species has recently been categorised as Vulnerable.

In the marine realm, the depletion of fish populations through overfishing and climate change has caused rapid declines in widespread and much-loved seabirds such as Atlantic Puffin Fratercula arctica and Black-legged Kittiwake Rissa tridactyla—both are now considered Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.


BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is a partnership of 48 national conservation organisations and a leader in bird conservation. Our unique local to global approach enables us to deliver high impact and long term conservation for the benefit of nature and people. BirdLife Europe and Central Asia is one of the six regional secretariats that compose BirdLife International. Based in Brussels, it supports the European and Central Asian Partnership and is present in 47 countries including all EU Member States. With more than 4100 staff in Europe, two million members and tens of thousands of skilled volunteers, BirdLife Europe and Central Asia, together with its national partners, owns or manages more than 6000 nature sites totalling 320,000 hectares.