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Common bird species index

Last update of indicator 20.12.2021

Indicator definition

The indicator evaluates changes in the abundance of common bird species in Slovakia, including the distribution of birds in forest and agricultural landscapes.




Related policy documents and targets

Related policy documents and targets

Greener Slovakia – Strategy of the Environmental Policy of the Slovak Republic until 2030 (Envirostrategy 2030) (2019)

Slovakia will prevent the deterioration of protected species and habitats.

The assessment and appropriate completion of protected areas scheme as well as drafting, approval and implementation of documents will provide protection opportunities for all significant species and habitats in the SR.

2.1 Stopping the Loss of Biodiversity

  • Conditions will be created for minimising of the negative impacts of anthropogenic activity, including the impact of climate change which are causing a loss of diversity of plant and animal species and a loss of biotopes, and the enforceability of laws related to nature protection will improve.
  • The completion of the national part of the Natura 2000 network of protected areas and the systems of internationally important territories with appropriate protection, will further enhance the conditions for the protection of internationally and nationally important species and habitats and they will also increase the contribution of the Slovak Republic to halting the global loss of biodiversity.
  • Until 2030, at a minimum, 15% of degraded ecosystems in Slovakia will be regenerated such as those above the timber-line, but especially salt marshes, wetlands, peatlands, alluvial forests that are significantly impacted by human activity.
  • The protection of primeval forests and their habitat, as well as an appropriate management of their protection zones will be ensured.
  • In cooperation with owners and land managers, via utilization of all available resources, the protection and restoration of forests, meadows and pastures that represent the highest biodiversity ecosystems and the creation of a groforestry systems will be supported.
  • State institutions, in collaboration with academic institutions, expert organisations and nongovernmental organisations will regularly update the red lists of endangered species and biotopes and recommend measures for their saving.
  • In the area of combating illegal hunting, poisoning, killing of animals, stealing and damaging plants and trafficking in endangered species, the cooperation of the relevant departments and organizations will be strengthened.
  • Hunting and other activities will respect the needs of protected species and habitats.
  • Hunting of decreasing, vulnerable and migratory species of protected animals will be carried out in accordance with the international obligations of the Slovak Republic.

3.2 Protection and Restoration of Landscape Elements on Agricultural Land

  • By 2030, a gradual restoration of landscape elements will take place on agricultural land. Field groves, dense strips of the wooded area, solitary trees and other landscape elements serve both as a corridor, windbreak, anti-erosion measures, and at the same time, as an area with various protected plant species and animal shelters.

4.1 Sustainable Timber Harvesting

  • Forest conservation programs will obligatorily contain conditions for the protection of species of animals, plants, fungi and their habitats relating to the protection of wooded land, for each individual part of woodland, where the compliance with the law on protection of nature and countryside is applicable.


The updated National Biodiversity Strategy up to 2020 (2014)

Area A: Nature protection

Objective A.1 To stop the deterioration of the status of all species and habitats, especially those covered by the EU legislation and achieve a significant and measurable improvement in their status.

Area C: Biodiversity Conservation in the state policy of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries
Objective C.4 By 2020, implement biodiversity promoting measures of the Common Agricultural Policy so as to measurably improve the conservation status of species and habitats.
Objective C.5 Within the implementation of caring for forests programs, to ensure the measurable improvement in the conservation status of those species and habitats that depend on sound forest environment or on which the forestry has a major impact, and ensure measurable improvement in the provision of ecosystem services in line with sustainable forest management compared to the reference scenario of the EU (2010).

Action plan for implementation of measures resulting from the updated National Biodiversity Strategy up to 2020 (2014)
Area A

Objective A.1
Achieving the EU´s objective: up to 2020, to stop the deterioration of the status of all species and habitats, and achieve a significant and measurable improvement in their status so that (compared to the current assessment) by 100% more habitat assessments and by 50% more species assessments under the Habitats Directive would show improvement in the conservation status, and by 50% more species assessment within the Birds Directive would show a secure or improved status.
In order to achieve the target for birds, the conservation status of at least 64 species – in particular for those for which protected bird areas are declared – should be improved. Improvements were proposed for example for Black Stork, Great Bustard, Field Hyrax, Western Capercaillie, birds of prey and wetland habitat species. 
Measure A.1.1 Consistently implement the Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive, adopted resolutions and decisions of international conventions, organizations and programs and improved national legislation in order to strengthen the protection of species and habitats and also link the network of protected areas on a scientific basis

Proposed tasks:
3. To monitor the species and habitats of European importance
4. To ensure the development and update of red lists of endangered species of Slovakia and selected regions
8. To improve nesting possibilities of selected and also other bird species in the Special protection areas (SPAs) and in urban habitats, and ensure the mapping and protection of feeding habitats of criteria species of birds in SPA
9. To eliminate the death of birds on power lines and bats and birds when insulating buildings.

Area C
Objective C.4

Measure C.4.3 Identify species and habitats dependent of specific farming methods and develop and implement specific measures with the support of European Funds to improve their conservation status.

Proposed tasks:
107. Implement the Rural Development Program (RDP) scheme „conservation of permanent grassland habitats“, „European Ground Squirrel conservation“ and „Great Bustard conservation“ within „agri-environment-climate measure“.


Key question

How is the development in the abundance of common bird species?

Key messages

  • Since 2005, the number of selected species from agricultural landscapes declined on a national level by 17%. In areas which applied agri-environmental schemes their abundance declined only by 4%.
  • One of the reasons that the abundance of all common bird species wasn´t halted (even on areas where measured 10 and 11 were applied) was the damage to wintering grounds for long-distant migrant birds and insufficient agri-environmental measures for bird protection
  • At a national level, forest species declined by 33-47% (the year 2018 was specific with a sharp decline in their abundance). In areas where the measures of RDP were implemented (predominantly measures M12 and M15) the number of birds increased.


Change since 1993 Change since 2005 Last year-on-year change
udaje nie su k dispozici emo_sad emo_sad
Data available since 2005. The abundance of birds in both agricultural and forest landscapes decreased during the 2005 – 2018 period The number of birds in both agricultural and forest landscapes decreased year-on-year.


Summary assessment

Trend in the index of variation in the abundance of farmland bird species

Source: SOS/BirdLife Slovakia
black line – total in the Slovak Republic
yellow line – areas where agri-environmental payments are applied


Trend in the index of variation in the abundance of forest bird species on a national level

Source: SOS/BirdLife Slovakia
orange line – total in the Slovak Republic
blue line – areas where forest-environmental payments are applied


Detailed assessment

Birds are important components of ecosystem conservation. The existence and abundance of birds is directly linked to habitat biodiversity, being one of its most important components. Birds react very sensitively to the changes in landscape use and indicates the overall state of biodiversity. Being the top ranks of the food pyramid, birds are considered to be a bioindicator to assess change in biodiversity on at both European and national levels.
Farming in Europe has undergone profound changes both in the use of agricultural and forest landscapes. In much of Europe, this has meant an intensification of farming, which in resulted in greater pressures on nature. This pressure was reflected in overall biodiversity, inthe changes in the abundance of birds, especially in non-forest landscapes.

Farmland birds

The common agricultural policy of the EU caused a dramatic decline in the abundance of farmland bird species. The abundance of skylarks has decreased by 49% and the abundance of Crested Lark has decreased by 98% since the beginning of the 1980s. This decline has not been stopped yet, and even the most recent bird monitoring data at a pan-European level point to the continuing decline of common bird species (Inger et al. 2015). 20 out of 36 species inhabiting predominantly farmlands show decreasing abundance (PECBMS 2009). The declining trend in the abundance of birds is similar in Central European conditions as the results from the Czech Republic and Slovakia show (Slabeyová et al. 2009). Open-land species are the most declining group of birds in these countries.
Since 2005, the abundance of certain bird species on national level has declinedby 17%. This is a very significant decline, in spite of the fact, the in the first years of the monitoring the abundance showed a rather stable, even slightly growing tendency.
This could be caused by those bird populations, which remain loyal to their native nesting spites for several years, in spite of changes in these habitats. These were the results of changes in landscape use and agricultural policy after our accession to the EU (ploughing of many grasslands out of agri-environmental schemes; the elimination of non-forest ligneous vegetation to meet payment conditions and other changes). The decrease in the abundance due to the agricultural intensification could therefore take effect after a certain amount of time.
The abundance of birds may also be slightly influenced by weather conditions, while not altering the overall abundance, may exacerbate extremes or fluctuations.
Index of variability in the abundance of farmland bird species explains the changes in the biodiversity of agricultural landscapes from a broader perspective, given the changes in the abundance of individual species are very diverse.

Comparison of development in areas, where agri-environmental payments are applied

The evaluation of changes in the abundance of common and rare bird species in Slovakia in relation to the measures of the RDP of Slovakia 2014-2020 (SOS / Birdlife, 2019) shows that the overall situation on areas with applied agri-environmental payments was slightly better than at national level. This is demonstrated through a rather positive classification trends for certain species (for example for Yellowhammer)  and increasing trends for two other species, while there were no increases on national level.
However, the overall situation on areas, where agri-environmental payments are applied is not ideal. 10 species are declining in abundance, while 8 species are increasing. Therefore, the negative trends prevail even in these areas (as a consequence of inadequate implementation of agri-environmental measures for nesting birds). On the other hand, the said decline has been moderate and in some species no decline was recorded, which may be a consequences of a generally more environmentally friendly approach to biodiversity conservation in areas, where agri-environmental payments are applied. When compared their status with the year 2005, the abundance of birds declined by 4 %
In 2009, the abundance of bird species at the national level was 19% higher than in 2005 and in areas where agri-environmental payments were applied the abundance was 73% higher. Since 2009, however, the abundance in areas with agri-environmental measures applied has declined more significantly, than at the national level. In 2015, the variability in the abundance since 2005 was similar both at the national level and in areas with applied agri-environmental payments.
Such a negative development is linked with a lack of schemes in agri-environmental payments, that would directly target farmland bird species. The existing schemes don´t consider the needs of farmland bird species adequately.
The evaluation of abundance trends for individual species highlights more positive trends for species in areas, where agri-environmental payments are applied. For several species, the trend in areas where agri-environmental payments are applied showed more positive results in comparison with the national level (European Goldfinch, Yellowhammer, and Common Whitethroat). These species benefited from a biodiversity conservation sensitive management in areas, where agri-environmental payments were applied.
Nevertheless, this was not enough to prevent a decline in the overallindex offarmland bird species in areas where agri-environmental payments are applied since 2009. The reason behind this is:
  • A negative trend in long-term migrant bird species – in species that winter in sub-Saharan Africa (illegal hunting and habitat changes on wintering sites and migration routes), as well as
  • Negative trends in species, whose needs where not adequately taken into account within agro-environmental payments


Forest bird species

Based on available data and their subsequent analysis (Ridzoň, J., 2019), it is clear, that the index of variability in the abundance of forest bird species is significantly positive in areas, where certain measures of the RDP are applied (measures M12 and M15) in comparison with the national average.

Comparison of development in areas supporting the forest-environment (RDP implementation in the Slovak Republic)

The abundance of forest species is moderately increasing in areas where the RDP measures are applied (the year 2018 is specific, similarly on the national level). A positive trend for bird population in areas supporting the forest-environment is recorded for the majority of individual monitored forest bird species. 11 out of 18 monitored species show positive trends in abundance (61% of the monitored species).
In areas where measures M12 and M15 are applied show considerably greater progress than the national average. In areas, where forest-environmental payments are applied show a stable and positive direction ) in bird abundance over longer-term horizon  (2010-2018).
In 2018 (when a decline was recording on the national level as well as in areas with RDP implementation) the development of the index can be assessed as a consequence of fluctuation (as in other years).



Mgr. Peter Kapusta, SAŽP,


The indicator evaluates the variability in the abundance of common bird species in the Slovak Republic (i.e. not rare – endangered bird species or bird of prey).
Methods of monitoring common bird species
  • The abundance of common bird species was observed using the point transect method (Kropil 1994)
  • In 2005-2018, many censors, mainly members and collaborators of SOS/Birdlife Slovakia participated in the bird census. Knowledge of visual and acoustic bird identification was the condition for participation in this program.
  • For each transect, 20 points were determined at a minimum distance of 300 m apart. The census took 5 minutes at each point. It was set to take place from 25 April to 31 May each year, with the possibility of mapping later at mid and high altitudes, usually by the end of June.
  • To calculate the total population index of farmland species (Gregory et al. 2005), variability in the abundance of the following 20 species were used: Alauda arvensis, Carduelis cannabina, Carduelis carduelis, Emberiza calandra, Emberiza citrinella, Falco tinnunculus, Hirundo rustica, Chloris chloris, Lanius collurio, Locustella naevia, Motacilla flava, Passer montanus, Saxicola rubetra, Saxicola torquata, Serinus serinus, Streptopelia turtur, Sturnus vulgaris, Sylvia communis, Sylvia nisoria, Vanellus vanellus.
  • The variability of abundance was evaluated in 191 locations across Slovakia (3820 points), and in individual locations, where agri-environmental schemes were applied (46 locations, 920 points).
  • The trend in the abundance for forest species, and its index of variability in abundance was defined for 18 selected species of forest birds.
Distribution of all monitored transects in Slovakia in the 2005 – 2018 period

Data sources:

SOS/BirdLife Slovakia
Annual report on the implementation of the Rural Development Program of the Slovak Republic 2014 – 2020 for the year 2018


Related indicators:

Related international indicators:

Linked references: