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Decline in mountain birds in recent years

Target

1.1 Norwegian ecosystems will achieve good status and deliver ecosystem services.

Indicator

Population status of breeding bird species in the major ecosystems forest, mountains and cultural landscapes
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Are we moving in the right direction? Published by the Norwegian Environment Agency

Areas above the treeline and open areas in montane forests are important habitats for about 10 per cent of Norway’s breeding bird species. Marked changes are taking place in these areas at present, as montane forests become denser and the treeline shifts upwards. As a result, the open areas in lower lying parts of the mountains are shrinking.   

Climate change and the accompanying changes in temperature and precipitation are also believed to be influencing Norway’s mountain areas. In addition, human activity is increasing in the mountains, and changes in land use and growing traffic and disturbance are putting pressure on mountain habitats. 

The graph for the whole period 1993–2017 in the figure above is based on breeding bird surveys in five of Norway’s mountain areas, the southernmost being the Hardangervidda and the northernmost Dividalen. This shows that bird populations were relatively stable from 1993 to 2005. After 2005 there was a decline until 2013, followed by a slight  increase the last four years.

The graph for the period 2007–2017 shows a similar development, and is based on the results of a national monitoring programme for breeding birds. The surveys include eight of the more common mountain species in Norway: Lapland bunting, bluethroat, meadow pipit, ring ouzel, wheatear, golden plover, willow grouse and ptarmigan. All the eight species are associated with more open areas in the mountains.   

A decline in mountain bird populations has also been observed for mountain areas throughout Norway, Sweden and Finland in the period 2005–2013.

The reasons for the decline are uncertain and probably complex, but one of them may be climate change, which is resulting in less favourable weather conditions during the breeding season. During periods with a decline in bird populations in the mountains, it is important to reduce pressures on these species as far as possible.