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Bird watchers [What Europe does for you]

With European elections coming up in May 2019, you probably want to know how the European Union impacts your daily life, before you think about voting. In the latest in a series of posts on what Europe does for you, your family, your business and your wellbeing, we look at what Europe does for bird watchers.

Like many of us, you may derive great pleasure and inspiration from watching wild birds and listening to their song. Birds are also an essential element of our ecosystems, which provide us with clean water, pure air, food, medicines and important raw materials.

For these reasons, the European Union protects the 500 wild bird species naturally present in Europe. Through a law adopted in 1979 (the oldest EU law on the environment), the European Union protects bird species in two ways. On the hand, it created protected areas to maintain habitats for 194 species that are particularly threatened (these nature protected areas are part of the wider Natura 2000 network of wild spaces). On the other hand, it bans most activities that directly threaten wild birds, like killing them deliberately, capturing or trading them.

Spanish imperial eagle. Aquila Adalberti

© Jesus / Fotolia

BirdLife, an international non-governmental organisation (NGO) developed, with European Union financial support, a system to collect information on threats to and plans for conservation of about 50 bird species. Projects protecting 54 bird species also have priority access to European funds under the LIFE programme.

You may have noticed that numbers of common farmland birds in Europe, such as sparrows and swallows, have fallen recently. However, EU action has helped to protect Europe’s most threatened birds from further decline. One example is the Spanish Imperial Eagle (Aquila Adalberti), whose population has recovered from 50 pairs in 1974 to about 150-160 pairs today.

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