The purpose of EuroBirdWatch is to inform the people about the endangerment of birds and how to protect them. Birds are an excellent indicator of the level of nature preservation and an important part of habitats. Do you know that the population of meadow birds in Slovenia is rapidly declining?
Autumn is the time of one of the most fascinating natural phenomena, large migration of birds to warmer places. On their incredible migration routes, when they fly over thousands and thousands of kilometres, they are in great danger. The purpose of EuroBirdWatch is to inform the people about the endangerment of birds and how to protect them. Migratory birds know no borders, so all countries must strive to protect them. To protect important stops on the birds’ migratory routes where birds stop, eat and rest, the BirdLife International partnership set up a network of internationally important areas for birds. The network operates in more than 120 countries worldwide, including Slovenia, which has 35 such areas. The coordinator of activities in Slovenia is the DOPPS Birdlife Slovenia.
The Birds Directive - the oldest EU regulation in the field of nature protection
Birds are excellent indicators of the diversity and preservation of nature, since they directly and indirectly show what is happening with nature and help us estimate the efficiency of our measures. They are a very important link in preserving the natural balance among living organisms in the environment, since they take care that pests and insects do not reproduce too much. The importance of birds was recognised in 1979 by members of the then European Economic Community (EEC), which adopted the Birds Directive, the oldest EU legislation on nature protection. Member States agreed that birds are an important common natural good of everyone, so their protection is a common responsibility. Birds are monitored with internationally comparable monitoring and counting. Among the better known are the farmland birds index (FBI) and the January International Waterbirds Census (IWC). With them the biodiversity can be monitored with appropriate measures in order to avoid the decline or even loss of important ecosystems.
In Slovenia meadow bird species are rapidly declining
Around 380 species of wild birds were observed in Slovenia in the past 50 years. In addition, around 30 species of birds were observed that were introduced into the nature by humans and did not have wild populations in Slovenia.
Since 2008 Slovenia has been monitoring common bird species for the determination of Slovene farmland bird index. Results show that the population of farmland birds declined by a quarter. The population of meadow bird species declined the most; in the past eight years alone by as much as 40%. According to estimates of ornithologists, during the EU membership Slovenia lost half of meadow bird species.
Ornithologists claim that this is the result of intensifying agricultural production (too early mowing, cutting of hedges and trees, intensive use of fertilisers), changing of lowland meadows into arable land, and overgrowing in other areas. Such a result shows lack of efficiency and the extent of measures provided by the EU to reduce the decline in bird populations. Unfortunately, the current agricultural policy mostly excluded hedges, which frequently provide shelter for birds to nest, from the areas eligible for subsidies and thus encouraged farmers to cut hedges wider than 2 square metres.
The most endangered bird species in Slovenia are river warbler (15%), grey partridge (22%), whinchat (32%), common linnet (42%), European turtle dove (47%), Eurasian skylark (52%), European serin (56%), tree pipit (58%) and stonechat (59%). The populations of corn crakes, hoopoes and Eurasian scops owls are also in decline.
The author of music in the documentary film on the fascinating phenomenon of large bird migration entitled Travelling Birds (directed by Jacques Perrin, 2001), Bruno Coulais, wrote: 'Birds are privileged spectators of natural beauties and witnesses of the folly of man'. Their disappearing should be a warning to us all.
The symbolism of birds
The image of a bird is one of the most commonly used symbols. Birds symbolise freedom and beauty. They are often an inspiration for poets and other artists. Individual bird species have different special meaning. The eagle is a symbol of courage, strength and freedom of spirit, the owl is a symbol of wisdom and erudition, the pigeon is a symbol of peace and noble love, the stork brings family fortune and promises offspring, the swan is a symbol of beauty and grace, the magpie is associated with theft and hypocrisy, the cuckoo brings fortune but only when a person has a coin in their pocket when they first hear it sing in the spring. In everyday comparisons and metaphors the vulture, falcon, raven, swallow, crow, rooster, hen, peacock, duck, goose, parrot, pheasant, nightingale, little owl and, of course, the cuckoo’s egg are frequently featured.
Birds are featured in many popular proverbs and sayings such as “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush” (a direct translation of the Slovene proverb would be “Better a sparrow in the hand than a pigeon on the roof”).
Images of birds appear on money, e.g. on euro coins of five Member States (golden eagle, swan, eagle, stork and owl). Stork is featured on the Slovene 1 EUR coin, and swallows are featured on the memorial coin of the tenth anniversary of Slovenia’s joining the euro area. They have great importance in folk heritage, and whose flight in the direction of the hour hand symbolises progress and development. The swallow was featured on the former Slovene two tolar coin, the stork on the 20 tolar bill and the owl on the 20 stotin coin.
50 Slovene family names are bird names
Birds are also common among Slovene family names: around 21,000 people in Slovenia have bird names for family names. The most common are Kos (blackbird) and Golob (pigeon), followed by 48 other bird species.
Even some companies have bird species in their names or selected a bird are their trademark (e.g. owl, swan, pelican, albatross, eagle and others).
Birds are also commonly featured on state symbols: as many as 61 countries have birds on their coats-of-arms or flags. The most common bird used for this purpose is the eagle, which appears in this role for 34 countries, followed by doves, condors, falcons and other bird species. Twenty municipalities in Slovenia have birds in their coats-of-arms. Birds are also among the most popular tattoo symbols.
Did you know that the arctic tern, which weighs only 100 grams, flies 70,000 kilometres every year? These birds migrate furthest in all animal kingdom.
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