We explore population trends of widespread and common woodland birds using data from an extensive European network of ornithologists for the period 1980-2003. We show considerable differences exist in the European trends of species according to the broad habitat they occupy and the degree to which they specialize in habitat use. On average, common forest birds are in shallow decline at a European scale; common forest birds declined by 13%, and common forest specialists by 18%, from 1980 to 2003. In comparison, populations of common specialists of farmland have declined moderately, falling on average by 28% from 1980 to 2003. These patterns contrast with that shown by generalist species whose populations have been roughly stable over the same period, their overall index increasing by 3%. There was some evidence of regional variation in the population trends of these common forest species. The most obvious pattern was the greater stability of population trends in Eastern Europe compared with other regions considered. Among common forest birds, long-distance migrants and residents have on average declined most strongly, whereas short-distance migrants have been largely stable, or have increased. There was some evidence to suggest that ground- or low-nesting species have declined more strongly on average, as have forest birds with invertebrate diets. Formal analysis of the species trends confirmed the influence of habitat use, habitat specialization and nest-site; the effects of region and migration strategy were less clear-cut. There was also evidence to show that year-to-year variation in individual species trends at a European scale was influenced by cold winter weather in a small number of species. We recommend that the species trend information provided by the new pan-European scheme should be used alongside existing mechanisms to review the conservation status of European birds. The analysis also allows us to reappraise the role of common forest bird populations as a potential barometer of wider forest health. The new indicator appears to be a useful indicator of the state of widespread European forest birds and might prove to be a useful surrogate for trends in forest biodiversity and forest health, but more work is likely to be needed to understand the interaction between bird populations and their drivers in forest.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Animal Science and Zoology