The EU's rich diversity of over 500 wild bird species has been facing severe threats for a long time. Urban sprawl and transport networks have fragmented and reduced bird habitats, intensive agriculture, forestry and fisheries and the use of pesticides have diminished their food supplies, and there has been a need to regulate hunting to ensure that it does not damage populations. According to the latest scientific studies, 43% of Europe's bird species are threatened or facing serious declines and are therefore not in a good conservation status.
Already back in the 1970s, Europe's leaders saw the need for a comprehensive system for bird protection at the European level in recognition that birds migrate freely across borders and are a valuable part of our shared natural heritage. The result was the Birds Directive, which was adopted on 2 April 1979.
Under the Birds Directive, all wild birds occurring in Europe are protected throughout their natural range within the EU. Article 4 of the Directive requires that key habitats are designated as Special Protection Areas under the Natura 2000 Network for 193 particularly threatened species listed in Annex I of the Directive, and other regularly occurring migratory birds. Articles 5-9 lay down measures to be taken to protect these species and the conditions under which derogations may be permitted.
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