Contrasting population trends of Common Starlings (Sturnus vulgaris) across Europe

Author(s): Heldbjerg, H., Fox, A.D., Lehikoinen, A., Sunde, P., Aunins, A., Balmer, D.E., Calvi, G., Chodkiewicz, T., Chylarecki, P., Escandell, V., Foppen, R., Gamero, A., Hristov, I., Husby, M., Jiguet, F., Kmecl, P., Kålås, J.A., Lewis, L.J., Lindström, Å., Moshøj, C., Nellis, R., Paquet, J-Y., Portolou, D., Ridzon, J., Schmid, H., Skorpilová, J., Szabó, Z.D., Szép, T., Teufelbauer, N., Trautmann, S., van Turnhout, C., Vermouzek, Z., Voríšek, P. & Weiserbs, A.

Published: 2 September 2019

Journal: Ornis Fennica Volume: 96

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Abstract

The greatest loss of biodiversity in the EU has occurred on agricultural land. The Common Starling (Sturnus vulgaris) is one of the many numerous and widespread European farmland breeding bird species showing major population declines linked to European agricultural intensification. Here we present results based on monitoring data collected since 1975 in 24 countries to examine the influence of changing extent of grassland and cattle abundance (based on results of earlier studies showing the importance of lowland cattle grazed grassland for the species), wintering provenance and temperature on national breeding population trends of Starlings across Europe. Positive Starling population trends in Central-East Europe contrast with negative trends in North and West Europe. Based on this indicative approach, we found some support for the importance of cattle stock and no support for grassland, temperature or wintering provenance to explain Starling population trends in Europe. However, we acknowledge such a European-wide analysis may conceal regional differences in responses and suggest that currently accessible national land use data might be insufficient to describe the detailed current changes in animal husbandry and grassland management that may be responsible for changes in food availability and hence breeding Starling abundance and their differences across Europe. Reviewing results from local studies relating Starling population trends to local agricultural change offer contradictory results, suggesting complex interacting processes at work. We recommend combining national datasets on demography, land-use/agricultural practices and from autecological research to better explain the reasons for contrasting Starling trends across Europe, to enable us to predict how changing agriculture will affect Starlings and potentially suggest mitigation measures to restore local populations where possible

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