Farmland bird population

In 2018, the index of the farmland bird population in Belgium was 34.6 (from 100 in 1990). To achieve the sustainable development goal by 2030, this figure must increase. This objective will not be reached by continuing the trend since 2000. The farmland bird population is therefore developing unfavourably.

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Farmland bird population - Belgium and international comparison

index 1990 = 100

//: Average Growth Rates

data for a growing number of countries between 1990 and 2016, ranging from 10 to 25 countries

Paquet J.Y. (2019), Direct communication 25/03/2019, data collected as part of the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme,

Definition: the farmland bird population index is an aggregated indicator of demographic estimates of 15 species of farmland birds with 1990 as the reference year (1990 = 100). The data come from annual surveys on breeding birds and are collected in the framework of a pan-European bird monitoring network. Currently, only the Walloon Region and the Brussels-Capital Region are part of this network and they provide the data used by Eurostat to publish this indicator for Belgium. The Flemish Region has its own monitoring method and indicator (INBO, 2015 and 2018), which shows the same evolution. The data come from the Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme.

Goal: the farmland bird population index must rise.

The Sustainable Development Goals or SDGs adopted by the UN in 2015 include target 15.5: “Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species”.

The Federal Long-Term Strategic Vision for Sustainable Development contains objective 37: “The goods and services provided by ecosystems will be restored, valorised and used prudently and sustainably, contributing directly to the maintenance of biodiversity (Belgian Official Gazette, 08/10/2013).

International comparison: the farmland bird population is declining in the EU (data for an increasing number of countries between 1990 and 2016, ranging from 10 to 25 countries), but at a slower rate than in Belgium. In Europe, the average annual growth rate is -1.46% between 1990 and 2016, compared to -4% in Belgium.

UN indicator: the selected indicator is related to indicator 15.5.1 - Red List Index. The red list gives each species a threat level corresponding to its risk of extinction in the short or medium term. This indicator evolves very slowly and is not regularly updated. The farmland bird population index is therefore used as a proxy to represent the entire biodiversity. “Birds are seen as good “indicator species” for the integrity of ecosystems and biological diversity. Being close to or at the top of the food chain, they reflect changes in ecosystems rather rapidly compared to other species (OECD, 2012, p. 94).


  • SDGs, Sustainable Development Goals: United Nations (2015), Transforming our world: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 25 September 2015, document A/RES/70/1.

  • Indicators: United Nations (2017), Work of the Statistical Commission pertaining to the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Resolution adopted by the General Assembly on 6 July 2017, document A/RES/71/313.

  • UN Sustainable Development Knowledge Platform: (consulted on 26/04/2019).

  • Sustainable Development Goal indicators website: (consulted on 26/04/2019).

More information is available in FR (French) and NL (Dutch).