Industrial Farming a Cause of Plummeting Bird Populations

Since 1980 the number of birds that typically inhabit Europe’s farmlands has shrunk by 55 percent.

As industrial-scale farms flourish in the European Union, its fields have grown quiet—robbed of the birds that once filled them with song. Since 1980 the number of birds that typically inhabit Europe’s farmlands has shrunk by 55 percent. And in the last 17 years alone, French farmland-bird counts dropped by a third—a “level approaching an ecological catastrophe,” according to a recent survey.

Intensified agriculture is driving the losses. Habitats where birds once bred, nested, and wintered now bear crops, and pesticides have killed off birds’ prey. In the past 27 years Germany has lost 75 percent of its flying insects by mass. Even avian species that typically adapt to humans have dwindled on farms, suggesting that the land is less able to sustain all kinds of birds.

To curb the losses of farmland birds, researchers contend that agriculture must be remade in nature’s image: less dependent on the addition of chemicals, more diverse in its flora, and more hospitable to local fauna.

Read This Next

Deported migrants struggle to start over in a place that doesn’t feel like home

A fire lookout shares the view from her mountaintop perch

Delta variant prompts venues to rethink how we stand in line

Go Further

Subscriber Exclusive Content

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet

Why are people so dang obsessed with Mars?

How viruses shape our world

The era of greyhound racing in the U.S. is coming to an end

See how people have imagined life on Mars through history

See how NASA’s new Mars rover will explore the red planet