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Hunting bags in Europe


Woodcock: despite its decline, this species is still heavily hunted in Europe (© Ronald Sl/Wikimedia Commons)Woodcock: despite its decline, this species is still heavily hunted in Europe (© Ronald Sl/Wikimedia Commons)The regulations contained in the EU Bird Protection Guidelines permit hunting of 82 of the 500 breeding or passage bird species in Europe. It was until now unclear as to how many birds hunters in Europe actually shoot every year, as there was no system for a uniform recording of hunting bag figures. An internationally coordinated census by conservation and hunting organisations was therefore ruled out. To date no one knew which species in which land and to what extent was hunted and shot. With the publication of the paper by the Committee Against Bird Slaughter this has changed. A full and comprehensive record of national hunting bag figures in Europe has been compiled.

Europe's hunters kill 102 million birds annually

The most significant result of this detailed study is that Europe's hunters officially shoot more than 102 million birds each year – laid beak to tail the total bag would circle the planet! The transport of these serried ranks of game, with a total weight of some 66,000 metric tons, would require the load capacity of almost 7,000 normal trucks. Of all 27 countries studied, France heads the list of bird slaughterers with some 25 million birds shot annually, followed by the UK (22 million) and Italy (17 million). Germany lands just outside the 'medals' with 6th place and 2.3 million shot birds.

Red List species in the hunters' sights

The favourite targets for European hunters are the Pheasant (21.9 million shot annually) and Wood Pigeon (15.5 million). Place 3 is reserved for the Song Thrush with 14.9 million birds shot annually in the study area. No other song bird is so extensively hunted.

The Skylark: despite this species is decliningoverall in Europa, 2.5 millions of birds are shot every year in the member States (© Daniel Pettersson/Wiki commons)The Skylark: despite this species is decliningoverall in Europa, 2.5 millions of birds are shot every year in the member States (© Daniel Pettersson/Wiki commons)The bag figures for 22 huntable species whose populations are in decline in Europe are disastrous. Every year 2.7 million Woodcock, 2.6 million Quail and 2.3 million Turtle Dove are blasted out of European skies each year. Even critically endangered species such as Common Snipe (total bag nos. 586,000), Golden Plover (75,000) and Eurasian Curlew (44,000) are not spared by the hunting fraternity. Hunting is an additional loss factor for many species which already have to contend with severe population decline due to habitat destruction in breeding and wintering areas. For these birds, the survival of their populations in Europe is seriously threatened by hunting.

The Skylark is a prime example. Although the responsible European Commission authorities are aware that the populations of this species has declined by more than 50 % in Germany the Netherlands and the United Kingdom, the Skylark is still categorised as huntable in the guidelines. As a result and in spite of an acute threat to its survival, more than 2.5 million Skylarks are shot or trapped in net every year in the European Union - legally and above board.

The exact official bag numbers of all huntable bird species in Europe are contained in the following tables:

The tip of the iceberg

The figures presented here by CABS reflect only the 'normal' pressure of hunting on 82 bird species within the EU. Not included here are the bag statistics from East European states such as Belarus, Bulgaria and Romania (now EU), Russia, Ukraine and the Balkan states which comprised the former Yugoslavia.

Wood Sandpiper killed by a hunter. Wader populations do not have a favourable status in Europe. Nevertheless they are hunted in many countriesWood Sandpiper killed by a hunter. Wader populations do not have a favourable status in Europe. Nevertheless they are hunted in many countriesBird species which are afforded special protection, and for which special authorisation is required for hunting such as Chaffinch and Brambling in Italy and Cormorant in Germany, are not accounted for. The numbers of birds trapped or shot by poachers are also not included, or indeed those shot and wounded, not recovered, and left to die. The number of birds shot at and not killed outright - the so-called 'crippling loss' – is put by some experts at 25 % of the total bag. That makes an additional 25 million bird casualties in Europe which are dosed with lead and die in isolation of their injuries. The actual total loss to the natural world, that is wild birds killed in Europe, is probably in the region of 200 million individuals – every year!

The complete study paper

You can download the full version of the publication "Mortality of migratory birds caused by hunting in Europe: bag statistics and proposals for the conservation of birds and animal welfare" here:

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Mortality of migratory birds caused by hunting in Europe.pdf2.59 MB
ERRATUM to Table 4.pdf18.83 KB