Changes in wintering bird populations in Finland

Submitted by avianbiology on 9 October 2014.

The numbers of wintering urban birds have increased three times and the number of water birds have increased ten times in Finland since the end of 1950s. Species that spend their winters in forest habitats have however decreased to around half during the same time period.

City birds have benefited from increased bird feeding since the 1960s says first author Sara Fraixedas at the Finnish museum of Natural History, Luomus. Whereas the increase in wintering water birds probably is caused by increasing winter temperatures, leaving waters ice-free for longer during the winters.

Water birds are wintering further and further north as a result of the warming climate. This leaves Finland with a greater responsibility for Europe’s wintering birds in the future, says author Aleksi Lehikoinen at Luomus.

The continued decline of forest birds is probably caused by the modern forest industry. During winter time, bird abundance is around 5 times higher in old forests compared to clear cuts and newly planted areas. Many of the old forests were cut down in Finland between 1950s and 1980s, causing grouse populations to crash at many places.

Wintering forest birds declined even more after the 1990s, even though the year to year variation is large. This variation is probably caused by variation in tree seed production. The continued decline indicates that the forest industry still has a marked effect on the forest bird fauna.

In this study the authors have developed indicators that makes it possible to assess the state of winter bird populations. With the help of these new indicators it will be easier to follow the continued fate of urban-, water- and forest-birds.


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This article has attracted a lot of attention from media in Scandinavia, below you can find some of the links (mostly in Swedish and Finnish).