SHANDONG PROVINCE, CHINA, 2016

A flock of birds seen through branches in Baotu Spring Park in Jinan, the capital city

Gao Dongfeng

Xinhua

© Xinhua News Agency / Eyevine

Not only pandas, tigers, rhinos or dolphins are at risk of extinction; today, their ranks include many animals we never imagined could be threatened. These include many birds, including those that, until a few decades ago, were abundant in our gardens and countrysides, like many passerines. In a span of 500 years, we have lost more than 160 species of birds, and that number seems to rise inexorably every year. In recent decades, passerine populations around the world have declined by almost half, and sparrows and starlings are no exception. The data suggest that their decline is directly or indirectly related to human activity, such as hunting and the loss of habitat, as we clear the hedges, meadows and trees that these birds call home. Moreover, the aggressive spread of agriculture eliminates any strip of uncultivated land and uses chemical compounds that are increasingly harmful to the environment, poisoning the insects that these birds eat. But that’s not all, even our house cats kill more birds than we might think, and air and noise pollution and climate change put passerines at risk. While there are many reasons for their decline, it is probably the sum of all of them that is a deadly mix, along with an increasingly accelerated human pace of life that these animals seem to no longer be able to sustain.

Matteo Schiavinato