The case of the missing birds

Ornithologists waiting for the first swallows to announce a new spring in western Europe are faced with a quandary: there are no birds for them to observe.

The case of the missing swallows raises the issue as to exactly what is happening to the world’s climate and what are the long-term effects to the environment of new agricultural policies.

The French Museum of Natural History has carried out investigations in recent years and has published a report which states that in the last twenty years, the populations of 27 species of birds have reduced drastically, among these swallows and sparrows. The French swallow population, it is calculated, has decreased by 87% in the last 13 years.

Investigators in the United Kingdom, also, lay the blame on intensive farming methods, namely the use of insecticides, as being directly responsible for the disappearance of large numbers of larks and finches. As insecticides are sprayed on to crops, the birds which feed on these insects are either poisoned or starved and this creates knock-on effects throughout the food chain.

Helder Costa, the President of the Portuguese Society for the Study of Birds, said that there are indications all over Europe that the numbers of certain species of birds are decreasing sharply and added that the results of various studies will be presented in a meeting in Prague next September.


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Author`s name Editorial Team