Higher decline rates for meadow bird populations

In the period 2000-2004 meadow bird numbers annuallyfell by an average 4.5 percent. In the period 1900-2000 the annual rate of decline was only 1.2 percent, according to figures from the national meadow bird monitoring scheme. This implies meadow bird numbers were reduced by half over the last 15 years.

Meadow birds

All meadow bird species in decline

All nine meadow bird species monitored in the period 2000-2004 were subject to decline. The highest decline rates were found among skylarks, shovelers and blue-headed wagtails. Their declining rates averaged over 8 percent annually. This corresponds to a reduction by half within a decade.

Western part of the country also suffers rapid decline

Currently, the highest meadow bird decline rates are recorded in the western part of the Netherlands. Until recently, meadow birds did fairly well in this part of the country. After 2000 the fen areas in the provinces of North and South Holland recorded a decline of no less than 13 percent annually. If decline continues at this rate, numbers will be halved within 5 years. 

Meadow bird numbers by region

Regional dissimilarities

High rates of decline are recorded particularly among blue-headed wagtail, meadow pipit and skylark populations. Their numbers fell by just short of 30 percent annually in fen areas in the provinces of North and South Holland. In the northern part of the country the rate of decline had accelerated in recent years. The eastern part of the country is the only region where decline rates are more or less stable.

Protective measures

The cause of the accelerated decline in meadow bird numbers has as yet not been established, but obviously, protective measures failed to reverse the downward trend.

Leo Soldaat (CBS) and Wolf Teunissen (SOVON)