An increasing number of birds threatened
Photo: Riku Lumiaro
Fifty-nine – that is, 24 per cent – of the 248 bird (Aves) species that nest in Finland are threatened. Of these 248, eight were Not Applicable, two as alien species and six as irregular nesters in Finland. Thirty-five species were classified as threatened in the 2000 evaluation. Ten years on, 30 new species of birds are now threatened, while six have improved their status. No species is now classified as Regionally Extinct. Three species that were previously held to be Regionally Extinct have been upgraded, either due to new data or because they have begun to nest in Finland again. A further 30 species were categorized as Near Threatened.
Those birds most at risk of extinction are the Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) and the Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola). There has been no evidence of the Lesser White-fronted Goose (Anser erythropus) nesting in Finland for 15 years, although there are an estimated 20–30 breeding pairs in the immediate surrounding areas in the north. Only 20 years ago, the breeding population of the Yellow-breasted Bunting (Emberiza aureola) stood at 300 pairs, but there has been no evidence of any nesting at all in recent years. The greatest change has occurred in the categorisation of the European Turtle Dove (Streptopelia turtur), Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) and Barred Warbler (Sylvia nisoria). The European Turtle Dove was Vulnerable in 2000 – in 2010 it’s Critically Endangered. Ten years ago, neither the Ruff (Philomachus pugnax) nor the Barred Warbler was threatened – now they’re both Endangered.
The population vigour of many species has improved. Six species have been removed from the Red List. The status of the White-backed Woodpecker (Dendrocopos leucotos) has changed from Critically Endangered to Endangered, while the previously Endangered Peregrine Falcon (Falco peregrinus) is now Vulnerable. Long-term avian conservation efforts have generated favourable results.
Humans alter habitats – usually to the detriment of birds
The threat to birds usually stems from many factors, and they are often also future threats. Where only a single threat factor exists, it’s usually a random factor associated with small population size. Such threats are the sole threat factor for 15 species.
Changes in forest habitats caused by the forestry industry are the primary threat factor for five species. These changes include the disappearance of old-growth forests, a decline in the number of old deciduous trees, and a reduction in the amount of decaying wood. Peatland drainage or waterway construction is a primary threat factor for four species. Changes in mire environments are more significant in terms of a future threat than as current threat factors. The proportion of threatened species varies substantially between habitat. The highest proportions of threatened species are found on shores and open fell areas (48% and 47% respectively).
Changes in agriculture pose a threat to four species. The decline in animal husbandry in particular has had a major impact, and its effects are the primary cause of decline for many Near Threatened species. The overgrowing of open habitats poses a threat to five species. Construction has placed six species under threat, as habitats have been destroyed and increased building usage causes disturbance at nesting sites.
Pollution and eutrophication also pose a threat
Chemical hazards are also a primary threat for five species. They affect birds via aquatic food chains, and contamination may also involve epidemics caused by microbes.
Hunting constitutes a significant threat to 13 species, of which only the Northern Pintail (Anas acuta) and Garganey (Anas querquedula) are game birds in Finland. Changes in habitat constitute the most significant threat factors outside Finland. These occur along birds’ migratory paths or in wintering areas and are the result of, for example, climate change or land use efficiency measures.
- Research Specialist Juha Tiainen, Finnish Game and Fisheries Research Institute (RKTL), tel. +358 (0)40 738 9128, email@example.com
- Senior Researcher Markku Mikkola-Roos, Finnish Environment Institute (SKYE), tel. +358 (0)400 148 685, firstname.lastname@example.org