Scientists plead for  Government action amid 'alarming wild bird declines'

Scientists plead for  Government action amid 'alarming wild bird declines'


Some of the country's foremost experts on birds have met with Government ministers in a bid to tackle what they call "alarming wild bird declines".

On the back of shocking figures published by BirdWatch Ireland and RSPB Northern Ireland on bird conservation between now and 2026, scientists told Ministers of State Malcolm Noonan and Pippa Hackett that the biodiversity crisis has been ignored by successive governments for far too long, leading to a full-blown crisis.

The bird organisations' findings revealed a shocking 46% increase in the number of bird species on the highest threat category since the last review in 2013, while almost two-thirds of bird species on the island of Ireland "are now in serious trouble".

We have reached a tipping point in the future of many of our wild bird populations

BirdWatch Ireland said that experts on farmland birds, waterbirds and seabirds told Mr Noonan and Ms Hackett, the heritage and biodiversity ministers respectively, that "they must seize the moment to turn around the fate of so many species".

The experts spoke of "catastrophic declines of farmland birds, especially breeding waders like the curlew and the lapwing".

This is a consequence of successive agriculture and forestry policies which have prioritised intensification and afforestation at the cost of homes for biodiversity, they said.

World Curlew Day

Dr Anita Donaghy, BirdWatch Ireland's head of species and land management said that on World Curlew Day, it was still waiting on Government to implement the recommendations of the Curlew Task Force published in 2019. 

The decline is the kestrel are grave.
The decline is the kestrel are grave.

"We cannot delay anymore. We have reached a tipping point in the future of many of our wild bird populations. The declines in the Kestrel, the beautiful and formerly common farmland bird of prey that hovers while hunting rodents, are grave. They indicate that our countryside is becoming ever more inhospitable for nature."

This must be resolved in AgriFood Strategy 2030, the CAP Strategic plan and in the Forestry Programme for once and for all, she said.

Successive governments have targeted funding on intensification and forestry premia, and much less so at supporting farmers to save the habitats of threatened species on their farms, Dr Donaghy added.

Ireland’s waterbirds are declining at rate higher than those in most other EU member states, according to Dr Lesley Lewis of BirdWatch Ireland, and co-author of the Birds of Conservation Concern in Ireland paper.

"Government must now put in place a multilateral and all-of-government approach with biodiversity at the heart of decision making. Otherwise the trend will be for more species to join the Red List and to head for extinction here," she said.

BirdWatch Ireland’s head of advocacy Oonagh Duggan said failure to adequately fund the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) has hindered species and habitat conservation at every level.

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