Independent Media Centre Ireland

Birds in Decline

category national | environment | opinion/analysis author Sunday September 28, 2008 15:06author by John Green - Privateauthor email thegreenspirit at gmail dot comauthor phone 087 1276829

Birdlife International has just issued a report that shows birds are now in serious decline everywhere, my article looks at birdlife in Ireland and wonders how can birds possible survive due to the way our goverment and we treat our ecology.

Birds In Decline.
Birdlife International’s just released report on birdlife brought together all the latest data on the state of birds from around the world and it makes distressing reading. It found that almost all species are declining across the world due to a loss of habitat and manmade destruction. A study of 124 of Europe's common birds found that almost half of those had declined across 20 countries, with farmland birds doing particularly badly. Some of Irelands favourite birds are now in serious danger of extinction, including the cuckoo, partridge and corn bunting, the latter may which may already be gone. Migrating birds have suffered a 40% decline over just three decades, the report says.

Dr Mike Rands, chief executive of BirdLife International, said the fall in bird numbers reflects the degradation of the natural environment around the world.

The report shows that although the world's governments have committed to slowing the loss of biodiversity by 2010, "a reluctance to commit what are often trivial sums in terms of national budgets means that this target is almost certain to be missed,".
Dr Rands added: "Birds hit by agricultural intensification in Europe may also suffer from excessive hunting in the Middle East and desertification of their African wintering grounds. "These species are being hit at all stages of their annual journeys and so common migratory birds are silently disappearing.

Dr Mark Avery, Director of Conservation at the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in England, said that if you ask why are birds declining "The answer is man's impact on the global environment and now man-made climate change, which may prove the most serious threat of all. What birds are telling us is that the deterioration in biodiversity and the environment is accelerating, not slowing."

Should we be concerned? Would we in Ireland miss birds if they left? Hardly; birds need trees, shrubbery and hedges to survive and we seem to take glee in removing these when ever possible. Woods and forests are being grubbed out to make way for roads and development, our government pays farmers to reduce hedges to stumps through the REPS scheme, tree preservation orders are hardly ever in place and local authorities nationwide have started a programme of removing shrubbery from streets, parks and public places due to antisocial behaviour. People drink in the shadow of shrubberies, the homeless sleep in them and youths meet in them. So what should we do? Deal with the social problems or remove the shrubbery? Remove the shrubbery that’s what Paddy does and as a result he removes the habitat our birds need to survive.

This week in Drogheda a property developer cut down an avenue of prime mature Beech, perhaps 200 years old yet nothing was done about it because although there was an agreement to put a preservation order on these trees… it was never done.

In Coolock on Tuesday night youths fed a swan bread loaded with a firecracker. It blew the beak of the unfortunate bird yet again nothing is done about it. However go busking in Coolock or protest against a developer there and soon they will have you in the back of a squad car.

In Spring Meath County Council sprayed hedgerows with the cancer causing Agent Orange defoliant. This is known, it was documented but again no one was charged or brought to court. A mistake they said and a mistake was agreed.

In the 1990s “The Tara Destroyer” Bertie Ahern went against all ecological and environmental advice and gave permission to bloodthirsty madmen, (sportsmen) to shoot migrating wildfowl which needs our land as a winter stop. This was done for the economic benefit these madmen might bring to the areas they shoot in. Bertie has gone, the Greens are in power but the shooting continues.

Woods and forests are among the few places where birds can live, they are the only carbon sinks possible, they are essential in the fight against global warming and all our efforts should be to maintain and replant these woodlands as a safeguard against our own destruction. The opposite is done. Coillte, a private firm was given our entire stock of woodlands for nothing. Their remit is profit, they sell off as much as they can and refuse to replant or maintain the rest. The rest being just “timber” to them. They planted just 24ha of broadleaf trees last year, 2007, the lowest possible. Woods they own and manage lie wrecked around Tara, they fenced off these woods against the M3 protesters but allowed the NRA bulldozed what they wanted. Nothing is done about it, the woods remain wrecked and will be until they are cut and cleared.

Go out into the country and look, the great trees that are there were all planted before 1950 and in many cases before the British left, since then and particularly over the last twenty years few if any have been planted. Its old mature trees, many of which are now going into senescence or young trees trying to avoid the flails of REPS.
There is nothing in between. Go into any housing estate, particularly the ones that have been built over the last twenty years and look at the tree cover there, they have been badly planted then neglected, trunks are damaged by cars and lawnmowers, root are cut by construction work and foliage is thin and sparse. These trees provide no cover, shade, protection or bird habitat and they never will. The only thing they can do is soon die.

How then can birds survive. If every country behaved like we do what specie could possibly survive this assault. Ireland is a first world country, with money, education and a supposed sense of moral worth, we sign up to all plans and programmes to halt or arrest the destruction of the natural world, a world which we too need, yet we then wipe our arses with the same documents and behave likewise; like primitive destructive bastards. How then can birds survive.

"Because birds are found almost everywhere on earth, they can act as our eyes and ears. What they are telling us is that the deterioration in biodiversity and the environment is accelerating, not slowing." Birdlife International. 2008.

What they should be telling us is that what is happening to them will happen to us, sooner now rather than later and unlike them we deserve it.

website (

BirdLife International (2008) State of the world’s birds: indicators for our changing world. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International. (English (PDF 14mb).

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