All the signs pointed to Spain going through a state of avian alarm, but the data is already here: up to 90 species are at risk of disappearing, according to the latest edition of the Red Book of Birds just completed. They are 25% of the 359 varieties evaluated by SEO-Birdlife.
Partridge, quail or tufted: 40% of trophy game birds in Europe are in a worrying situation
Spain has a wealth of crucial bird life in Europe. The Red List, which includes all species with data, and the Red Book, which identifies the varieties in the worst condition, are the tool to know how this heritage is. And the last edition dated from 2004.
The Spanish Ornithological Society has analyzed those 359 species of which more than half “present problems” either because they have been confirmed extinct, live under threat or are close to being so.
The notices were on the table. Species monitoring had previously indicated that a third of the 100 most common types of birds have lost population in the past 30 years. The collapse adds more than 95 million birds, especially those that live in agriculture.
Now, the dire club of critically endangered birds is made up of 18 species, some as well-known as the grouse, the curlew or the lesser shrike and others as elusive as the bittern.
The largest proportion in this group is made up of aquatic and marine birds: the blacktail marlin, the wagon and gray teals, the Moorish coot, the Balearic shearwaters as well as the chick and pinchoneta, the murre, the brown porrón, the smoker, the seagull. tridactyl or white-breasted paíño. Also making up this black list are the marsh bunting and the Gran Canaria blue finch. Names to remember, they will not disappear like the bull, the hermit ibis, the fine curlew or the borni hawk.
What threatens them?
Birds are affected by multiple aggressions. Those that most threaten them are pollution and the degradation of ecosystems. The newest: the climate crisis that has been assessed for the first time among the dangers for birds.
Climate change impacts 65% of threatened species. Increased extreme weather events – such as storms or droughts – can severely harm both adult populations and chickens. The rise in global temperature is shrinking the habitats where high mountain birds can live. They are literally homeless.
Pollution, which alters the life of three-quarters of that alert list, has many faces: the massive use of insecticides and herbicides in intensive agriculture, lead poisoning from hunting ammunition, hydrocarbons in the sea, the abandoned plastics and the light pollution that impacts on the birds that fly over the seas.
The action of invasive alien species, especially harmful on the islands, has also been reported. How do they work? “They prey on chickens and eggs or expel indigenous varieties by leaving them without sustenance,” says the Book. In addition, there is a risk of “genetic introgression”, that is, the introduction of alien species of birds related to their own gives rise to crosses as happens to the Balearic shearwater, the common quail or the white-headed duck.
The other main threats are intensive agricultural industry, human nuisance, infrastructure for energy production or transmission, and hunting. The latter “constitutes additional pressure for species affected by other causes.” A kind of last nail in the coffin. Of the 33 species of birds considered as hunting birds in the closed orders of the autonomous communities, 12 varieties have significantly worsened their conservation status since 2004. Only 11 taxa present a good state of conservation, reports the study.
Weak legal shield
The analysis of the conclusions of the Red Book places duties on the administrations. The main one is to update the Spanish Catalog of Threatened Species to include all species in poor conservation status. “70% of these varieties do not have adequate legal coverage”, indicate the technicians. The catalog of the Ministry of Ecological Transition only admits the categories of “vulnerable” and “in danger of extinction”, the rest of the species are incorporated into the List of Wild Species of Special Protection.
An example that illustrates this aspect was the vote in the Biodiversity Commission on the status of the European turtle dove. Despite having the endorsement of the scientific committee to declare it vulnerable – which automatically prevents its hunting – the vote of the autonomous communities and the ministry ended in a tie. It did not acquire the new level of protection.
The species that, they analyze, should be most urgently shielded “due to their level of threat” are the wagon teal, the pechialbo paíño or the tridactyl gull.