European greenfinch named Bird of the Year

European greenfinch

The Czech Society for Ornithology has named the European greenfinch Bird of the Year 2022. The small passerine bird, known for its bright yellow and green feathers and melodic chirping, is currently facing hard times with population numbers sharply declining.

The European greenfinch is a species common in whole of Central Europe, inhabiting both urban and rural landscapes. The brightly coloured songbird is also a frequent visitor to gardens, where it nests in conifer trees and feasts on seeds in bird feeders.

In recent years, however, the population of the once common bird started to decline dramatically. This is why the Czech Society for Ornithology decided to name the European greenfinch Bird of the Year, says ornithologist Petr Voříšek:

European greenfinch | Photo: Karel Jakubec,  Wikimedia Commons,  public domain

“Although it is still a common species, the decline is really dramatic. The evidence suggests that this is because of a disease which is very often transmitted at birdfeeders.

“Via the campaign we want to educate people about responsible bird feeding to prevent further spread of the disease.

“Using this example we can show people that even positively motivated actions like bird feeding can have consequences which may be adverse for some species.”

The decline of the European Greenfinch population has been observed not only in the Czech Republic, but also elsewhere in Europe, says Mr Voříšek:

“The evidence available so far shows that a more pathogenic strain of trichomonasis, a disease cause by a parasite common in many wild living bird species and domestic poultry, emerged in Britain around the year 2005.

“It was then transmitted, probably by chaffinches, to continental Europe. Here in the Czech Republic, the disease was first recorded in 2012. So this is really quite a widespread phenomenon.”

European greenfinch | Photo: Francis C. Franklin,  Wikimedia Commons,  CC BY-SA 3.0

One of the aims of the Bird of the Year campaign is to raise awareness of declining bird species. In the case of the European greenfinch, it also aims to teach people how to recognize the signs of the disease and prevent it from spreading, says Mr Voříšek:

“When people notice sick or even dead birds at feeders they should stop feeding immediately for at least two weeks. They should clean it up, disinfect everything and only then they can resume feeding.

“Another piece of advice is that people should use proper types of feeders, not ones that are complicated in structure and are difficult to clean.

“The last thing is that here in Central Europe we used to feed birds only during the winter months, when they don’t have enough food in the environment.

“Nowadays, however, more and more people feed them all year round. The evidence suggests that especially summer feeding may be problematic for the spreading of the disease.”

Instead of feeding them throughout the whole year, Petr Voříšek says we should focus on protecting the natural habitat for the birds where they can nest and find their own sources of food.