More than one third of all Belgian breeding birds are endangered at European level. This is per a report for the nature protection NGO, BirdLife International. It is, in particular, meadow and field species which are endangered.
Gerald Driessens, from the Flemish environmental association, Natuurpunt, said, “There are 184 types of breeding bird in Belgium.”
He was relaying the findings of the report in question. Amongst these, 62 birds feature on a list of birds under the heading ‘Species of European Conservation Concern.’
This means that their population size, worryingly, is low across the whole of Europe. The association is warning, “Moreover, for 24 of these, an evident decline has been noted in recent years.”
As alluded to earlier, field and meadow birds are the most affected by this phenomenon.
Gerald Driessens explains, “They lose feeding and nesting territories. This has arisen because of the increasing intensification of agriculture.”
Within Flanders, the northern lapwing and grey partridge populations have plummeted, and the turtle dove is almost threatened with extinction in Belgium.
That having been said, the report does show that specific efforts for habitat improvement have been rewarded. Several reed birds, such as the bittern, indeed point to a positive trend.
Natuurpunt says that this has, in particular, been possible thanks to, in recent years, the restoration of 1,500 hectares of marshland and wetlands within the Escaut estuary. This is part of the integrated flood protection plan, known locally as Sigma.
The decline in heathland birds has also come to an end in Belgium, whereas this species is encountering some difficulties everywhere else in Europe for the moment.
The environmental association finds that the use of appropriate forms of mowing has made the difference for ground-nesting species.
Gerald Driessens concedes, “However, for other species, such as the crested lark or the corn bunting, which are on the point of dying out, the reasons for their decline are more complex. We haven’t yet ascertained the appropriate measures to take to protect them.”
BirdLife’s report is a census of bird populations for 221 bird species throughout Europe generally, and within certain countries in the east of the continent.
The organisation has been making such an inventory of nesting birds within Europe for some thirteen years.