Which birds are the greatest Europeans?

By Bohuš Číčel (http://www.flickr.com/photos/bcicel/) (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia CommonsTomorrow is the 40th birthday of the UK’s membership of the European Union (EU, formerly European Community, formerly European Economic Community).  When the UK joined the EU, with Denmark and Ireland, we brought the EU to a gang of nine (France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, Luxembourg and the Netherlands).

Now the EU is a gang of 27 (28 when Croatia joins in July) with the addition of Greece (1981), Spain and Portugal (1986), Finland, Sweden and Austria (1995), Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovakia and Slovenia (2004), Bulgaria and Romania (2007).

There are over 500 species of bird which occur regularly in the European continent – how many species do you think are found as breeding species in every EU country from Ireland to Romania and from the Azores (Portugal) to Finland? And they all have to breed in little Luxembourg too.

I’ll give you my best guess at the answer at 11pm tonight – I wouldn’t want you to enter 2013 in a state of ornithological distraction.


By Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons
By Andreas Trepte (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

26 Replies to “Which birds are the greatest Europeans?”

  1. ….and that’s how you reward your readers of your blog, Happy New Year to you 🙂 I’m going to have a stab at Wren,Blue Tit,Great Spotted Woodpecker,Green Woodpecker,Goshawk,Sparrowhawk,Nuthatch and Crow…is that too many and will the list change if Iceland become an EU member?

    1. Douglas – thanks for all your comments over the past months and do keep them coming in 2013. Actually, your list is too small. And you don’t have any of the right species! It’s quite tricky isn’t it. To my mind, there are a few very surprising species on the list. As for Iceland – see today’s second blog!

  2. ooohh tricky – probably not as many as you’d think; off to pour over BWP – although I’m missing vol 7! House sparrow has to be one of them I’d guess

    All the very best for 2013

  3. As a short cut I compared the breeding bird lists for the azores, uk and malta and looked at the maps for in the Collins Bird Guide for the short list. The only three I reckon are breeding in all states are greenfinch, chaffinch and collared dove. If you count Greenland as part of Denmark you are down to chaffinch. Am I alone in finding it ironic that collared dove, a relatively recent immigrant fom Turkey is one of the most widespread european birds?

      1. Good point but is that in the same sense that Greenland is attached to Denmark? In posing the question I decided to google the answer which is here


        It would seem that Azores, Madeira and Canaries all have the same status but so does French Guiana, Guadeloupe and Reunion. Greenland has a different lesser status.

        So its a question of definition. I see that the latest research is advocating that the western palearctic is not what we thought either!

  4. I am presumng that they don’t all have to breed in the Azores – any part of Portugal will do?
    Based on range I reckon there could be about 40 species but some of them might be missing in Luxembourg I suppose. I am surprised that some of the species Douglas mentioned are not on the list – I would have included wren, blue tit, sparrowhawk and crow. Are you counting carrion crow/hooded crow as one species or two?
    I am going to go for: dabchick, mallard, kestrel, water rail, moorhen, coot, black-headed gull, wood pigeon, collared dove, cuckoo, nightjar, swift, kingfisher, skylark, sand martin, swallow, house martin, pied/white wagtail, yellow wagtail, dunnock, robin, mistle thrush, blackbird, blackcap, whitethroat, chiffchaff, great tit, coal tit, long-tailed tit, magpie, jay, carrion/hooded crow, house sparrow, chaffinch, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch, reed bunting.
    That’s based on very cursory ‘research’ so I could well be wildly out!

    1. Jonathan – another good approach and not wildly out. But there are another couple of countries which are as important as Luxembourg at whittling down the list.

    2. Woops! I’d forgotten about Malta and Cyprus – they are not part of anywhere else so quite a few of the above list would have to go. I reckon the list might be:
      dabchick, kestrel, moorhen, collared dove, cuckoo, swift, swallow, house martin, robin, chaffinch, linnet, goldfinch, greenfinch. Thirteen species (still counting Azores as part of Portugal and therefore not required to have all of these species by itself).

  5. I think you’re going to need some migrant breeders in there, so will say Swallow, Swift, House Martin, Spotted Flycatcher and Chiffchaff, along with Blackbird, Grey Wagtail, Kestrel, Buzzard, Cormorant, Grey Heron, Greenfinch, Goldfinch and the afore-mentioned Collared Dove, though I’d feel more confident about that list if it wasn’t for the Azores and Malta.

  6. I am going to start by thinking about all the birds with Eurasian in their full name. I will be back later.

  7. I get 13 species (with Malta and Cyprus being the main limiting factors – particularly Malta) using the EBCC atlas (now a bit out of date), the Birdlife Malta website and Nature in Cyprus website. Quail, Little Grebe, Kestrel, Moorhen, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Swift, Swallow, House Martin, Reed Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher, Chaffinch, Greenfinch.

    I also don’t see why the species should have to occur in the Azores. It isn’t a separate member state. You might as well say the species have to occur in Reunion or Guadaloupe or French Guiana, all of which are part of the EU. Greenland isn’t part of the EU by the way, having withdrawn in 1985.

    1. Of course it all depends on whether you include just regular breeders or also occasional breeders in each country. Birdlife Malta lists only 21 regular breeding species in that country, which immediately puts a limit on things. If the very rare breeders on Malta (which don’t always breed each year) are excluded, the list of 13 I posted above is reduced to five: Moorhen, Collared Dove, Reed Warbler, Spotted Flycatcher and Chaffinch, all of which I think are also regular breeders in the other 26 countries.

  8. What a clever blog Mark,I will be extremely interested in the answer.
    Wish you a really good healthy 2013.

  9. I’ll go with 40 species, which is a wild stab in the dark.
    My main reason for posting Mark is to wish you and fellow readers a very Happy New Year.
    Please keep up the good work, it can’t be easy producing a blog each day, certainly such a good one and one that is probably the best concerning UK conservation. All the best for 2013!

  10. Here goes – – Skylark, Swallow, House martin, House sparrow, Tree Sparrow, Pied/white wagtail, Robin, Wheatear, Stonechat, Mistle thrush, Blackbird, Blackcap, Wren, Spotted Flycatcher, Great Tit, Magpie, Jay, Jackdaw, Raven, Chaffinch, Linnet, Goldfinch, Greenfinch, Swift, Long eared owl, Collared Dove, Cuckoo, Woodpigeon, Moorhen, Peregrine, Kestrel. = 31 but could be a lot less as not sure about Malta.

  11. Right then, there are the ones I think:
    Magpie, Robin, Dunnock, House Martin, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Lapwing, Swallow, House Sparrow, Greenfinch, Pied and White Wagtail, Jay, Starling, Mallard, Jackdaw and Great Tit.
    I hope I’ve got some of them right and look forward to seeing what you think Mark.
    Hope you all have a brilliant 2013.

  12. Mark, thanks for a splendid year of blogs. My guess Swift, Great Tit, Robin, Swallow, House Martin, Wren, Great Spotted Woodpecker, Mallard, Tufted Duck, Starling, Carrion/Hooded Crow, Chiffchaff, Blackbird, Magpie, Red Legged Partridge, Yellowhammer, Nightingale, Curlew, Lapwing, Snipe and probably a few more but a nice Claret is preventing further thinking! Happy new year!

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