Europe is home to more than 500 wild bird species. But at least 32 % of the EU's bird species are currently not in a good conservation status. The Birds Directive aims to protect all of the 500 wild bird species naturally occurring in the European Union.
Often migratory, wild bird species can only be protected by cooperating across borders. Urban sprawl and transport networks have fragmented and reduced their habitats, intensive agriculture, forestry, fisheries and the use of pesticides have diminished their food supplies, and hunting needed to be regulated in order not to damage populations. Concerned with their decline, Member States unanimously adopted the Directive 79/409/EEC in April 1979. It is the oldest piece of EU legislation on the environment and one of its cornerstones. Amended in 2009, it became the Directive 2009/147/EC .
Habitat loss and degradation are the most serious threats to the conservation of wild birds. The Directive therefore places great emphasis on the protection of habitats for endangered and migratory species. It establishes a network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) including all the most suitable territories for these species. Since 1994, all SPAs are included in the Natura 2000 ecological network, set up under the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC.
The 500 wild bird species naturally occurring in the European Union are protected in various ways:
The Commission provides guidance on hunting practices, some of the key concepts of the Birds Directive and on the sustainable management of cormorant populations. The EU first sustainable hunting initiative was launched in 2001. The Commission also aims to eradicate the illegal killing, trapping and trade of birds in the European Union.
Considering the poor status of farmland birds across the EU, the Commission has launched the Birds@Farmland initiative to support Member States in developing specific measures for their conservation.
All Member States have to submit reporting on the status and trend in bird populations (article 12) as well as on derogations (article 9) they may apply to the directive's obligations.
Learn more about the EU's 500 wild bird species, the threatened bird species listed in the directive's annex 1, which ones are a priority for LIFE funding or benefit from a Species Action Plans.
The annexes of the Birds Directive have been adapted each time new countries joined the European Union. Find out more about the impact of enlargement on nature law.
The ORNIS Committee assists the Commission in the implementation of the Birds Directive.
Status of all bird species at EU and pan-European level (BirdLife International)
International Conservation Policy Delivers Benefits for Birds in Europe: (research paper published in the Science journal, August 2007) has shown that the Birds Directive has significantly helped protect Europe's most threatened birds from further decline, partly through the designation of Special Protection Areas (SPAs)