Bird Day: safeguarding bird health to protect our ecosystems

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This weekend we celebrate Bird Day, a date promoted by BirdLife International to raise awareness about the status of these species, highlight their ecological value and underline the importance of safeguarding these jewels of our natural heritage. This year, under the slogan “The health of birds is the health of ecosystems. If it’s good for the birds, it’s good for you.“The aim is to highlight the knowledge of birds as a fundamental tool to know the state of health of ecosystems.

According to the State of the World’s Birdspublished by BirdLife International, half of the world’s birds are losing population, some 5,245 out of a total of 11,000 recognized species. It also states that one out of every eight species is in danger of extinction.

At the national level, the Red Book of the Birds of Spain concludes that 25 % of the Spanish avifauna assessed is threatened and included in categories at risk of extinction, while 56 % of the species present conservation problems due to confirmed threat status or because they are still unknown.

The document also details the main factors that threaten Spanish ornithological fauna, with pollution (urban, industrial, garbage, etc.) severely affecting the greatest number of bird species (76.29 %), followed by the alteration of ecosystems (70.10 %). Among the remaining risk factors, climate change appears for the first time (65.98 %), together with other threats such as the existence of invasive alien species and other problematic native species (60.82 %) or hazards due to electrocution, being run over and collisions with buildings and other infrastructure (46.39 %).

This generalized decline not only affects the state of the populations, but also evidences environmental problems of great magnitude that directly affect the health of the ecosystems. Therefore, it is also important to highlight the important role of birds as indicators of the planet’s health. SEO/BirdLife points out that birds provide a wide variety of ecosystem services, including
ecosystem services
of different types, such as their contribution to seed dispersal, their role in pollination and in the regulation of other natural processes, but they also provide other “immaterial” benefits, related to the health and well-being of people, as some studies indicate that birdwatching helps to alleviate anxiety and depression.

In this context, the Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge supports and coordinates different projects that contribute to the improvement of the conservation and protection of avifauna.

Thus, the LIFE Cerceta Pardilla project aims to reverse the risk of extinction of the brown teal, one of the seven species declared “critically endangered” in Spain. To this end, the recovery of more than 3,000 hectares of wetlands is proposed, a habitat on which the species depends for subsistence and reproduction. It has also undertaken a series of actions to strengthen the status of its populations in the natural environment, improve the state of wetlands and scientific knowledge of the species.

In addition, this breeding season, the project has reached a milestone. With the
sighting of at least 5 different females accompanied by 36 chicks, the reproduction of this species has been confirmed in El Espigar
The breeding of this species has been confirmed in El Espigar, a farm located in the Natural Park of El Hondo (Alicante). This is the first confirmed reproduction on land acquired within the framework of LIFE, specifically in a wetland purchased by the ANSE and SEO/BirdLife associations, partners in the project. The breeding has been possible thanks to the improvement of the ecological conditions of the farm, which has been adapted to the needs of the brown teal.

Among other actions, and with the aim of contributing to the growth of brown teal populations, 64 specimens bred in captivity by experts of the Generalitat Valenciana at the Fauna Recovery Center La Granja de El Saler have been released in El Espigar. A pre-release cage and five nest boxes have also been installed to facilitate the adaptation of the released specimens to the wetland and encourage their reproduction.

On the other hand, the Biodiversity Foundation through the Pleamar ProgramThe project, co-financed by the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund (EMFF), has contributed to the implementation of various community directives related to the protection and conservation of biodiversity in the European Union (EU), among them the Birds Directive which aims at the long-term conservation of all European wild bird species. The Directive establishes a general regime for the protection and management of these species, as well as rules for their exploitation.

This program has also supported projects that have contributed to improve the knowledge and conservation status of 21 bird species, some of them highly threatened, such as the Balearic shearwater (Puffinus mauretanicus), Cory’s shearwater (Calonectris diomedea) and the Mediterranean shearwater (Puffinus yelkouan), as well as the yellow-legged gull (Larus michahellis) and the Audouin’s gull (Larus audouini), the Black-legged Tern(Thalasseus sandvicensis) and the Common Tern(Sterna hirundo), the Atlantic Gannet (Morus bassanus) or the European Storm Petrel(Hydrobates pelagicus), among others.

The designation of the Fundación Biodiversidad as an intermediate body of the European Maritime, Fisheries and Aquaculture Fund (EMFF) will allow continuity to be given to these lines of work, which will focus not only on the protection of the marine environment, but also on the species protectionespecially by-catch of birds, and the conservation and conservation of the recovery of biodiversity and aquatic ecosystems.