Ksmall, compact and with rather long black legs: This is how the bird of the year 2023 is described. The German Nature Conservation Union (NABU) named the whinchat bird of the year on Thursday. In 1987 the songbird carried the title before.
The shuttlecock, which is about twelve to 14 centimeters in size, prevailed with 43 percent of the votes in an online vote against the tree sparrow, the red-backed shrike, the pied flycatcher and the moorhen. Almost 135,000 people took part in the vote.
The Bird of the Year is a campaign that has been run by NABU and the State Association for Bird and Nature Conservation (LBV) since 1971. The annual declaration of a bird is intended to indicate the endangerment of the animals and their habitats. The public has been deciding on the winner since 2021; before that, a specialist committee determined the bird of the year. Last year, the hoopoe received the title.
Species-rich meadows are important
Even if Saxicola rubetra, as the whinchat is called, occurs almost everywhere in Germany, it is endangered across Europe, NABU announced on Thursday. There are still 19,500 to 35,000 breeding pairs in Germany, with a sharp downward trend.
The Whinchat prefers less densely populated regions and can be found in Germany mainly in the east and north-east. “This time, people have chosen a bird species that is highly endangered throughout Europe and thus given it the attention it urgently needs,” says NABU Federal Managing Director Leif Miller.
The round songbird with the brown-orange breast lives in damp meadows, on fallow land and on the edges of fields. Individual bushes, tall shrubs and fence posts are particularly important to it. He uses it as a singing station and starts his hunting flights from there.
The “meadow clown”, as the bird is also called because of the white band over its eyes, feeds on insects, spiders, worms and berries. Species-rich meadows and flower strips are important, according to NABU. If a predator approaches, like a bird of prey, the bird takes a kind of “post position” and tries to make itself invisible.
Intensive farming is endangering the Whinchat
He breeds in ground nests and needs flower-rich meadows and fallow land. “Unfortunately, these are becoming increasingly rare due to intensive farming,” says Miller. The whinchat population has therefore been declining for decades. You can help by buying regional and ecologically produced food.
“The Whinchat is awarded the absentee Bird of the Year title,” says Miller. Because the songbird spends the winter in warmer climes, it already left for the south in September and spends the cold season south of the Sahara. In April, the “meadow clown” will come back to Germany.
Like a clown, the movements of the little bird are fun to watch: similar to its direct relative, the robin, it often curtsies and wags its tail. His singing is also a pleasure. It consists of variable and harsh stanzas that speed up before ending abruptly.