Redshank Tringa totanus, in breeding plumage, Geltsdale RSPB reserve, Cumbria,

Safeguarding special places for people and wildlife

Some of the UK's most special wildlife and habitats that we cherish today, have been protected because of a piece of EU legislation - the Birds Directive.

Reporting its success

The RSPB has published a report celebrating the Directive's success.

The report highlights the social and economic benefits of the Birds Directive, for example, the Ribble Estuary SPA provides and exciting outdoor classroom where children learn parts of the curriculum and the importance of conserving habitats and wildlife.

For example, the bittern’s inclusion in Annex 1 of the Birds Directive has stimulated conservation action, which has increased bittern numbers in the UK from only 11 booming males in 1997 to 55 in 2004.

The Birds Directive addresses the conservation of all wild birds throughout the European Union. It includes terrestrial and marine areas, and covers their protection, management, control and exploitation. It applies to the birds themselves, their eggs, nests and habitats. 

One of the main achievements of the Directive has been the creation of a network of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) across Europe, which help to protect the internationally-important bird populations that use them. The UK currently has 242 SPAs covering more than 10,000 square kilometres. 

At times, the directive has forced difficult decisions on government and society. The report summarises some key cases where the directive has been influential in determining where the balance between development and conservation lies. 

The RSPB is in no doubt that the Birds Directive will continue to play a full role in helping to deliver the European Union’s objective of halting the loss of biodiversity by 2010. It is reassuring to know that the special places it has created and will continue to create, will be a proud legacy for future generations to enjoy.

You can download a copy of the report from this page.

Bittern Botaurus stellaris, adult, wading in reedbed at Lee Valley Country Park