Brussels sets out to bird-map the city sky

Brussels sets out to bird-map the city sky
Bird on a hire... The increasingly rare white-fronted redtail, snapped here on a taxi wing-mirror. Credit: René Dumoulin

We've all marvelled at the acrobatic chorus of those green parakeets so strikingly un-Belgian... You know the ones...

No matter: whether the willow warbler is more your song than the blackbird, or if it's jackdaws that drive you stark raven mad for it..., the good news is we're getting a brand new bird atlas for the city of Brussels this Spring.

The Brussels Environment agency announced on Tuesday that it has commissioned a gigantic, granular survey of urban ornithology.

The first to be undertaken since 2004, the data will be gathered by passionate volunteers for Belgium's French and Dutch wildlife associations Natagora and Natuurpunt, respectively. They will log every new arrival and departure over the next two years to build a picture of Brussels' bird population over the 192 square kilometres of the cityscape.

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Nature lovers see birds as bio-indicators of reference as our environment evolves, whether the changes on this level are shaped by urban development or by weather.

It's a huge job, but the ideal one for Alain Paquet, ornithologist for Natagora who has expressed his fears about species being driven out of the Brussels environment. He hopes that the "census allow for analysis in fine detail," he said.

In due course, the Brussels bird map will be integrated digitally into standardised ornitho-cartography for Flanders, Wallonia and the wider world. For an inexhaustive list of bird species in Belgium, see here.


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