Agriculture

Millions of birds killed annually in southern Europe during olive harvest, says study

The birds are sucked into machines that harvest olives during the night

 
By DTE Staff
Last Updated: Tuesday 21 May 2019
Young olive trees. Photo: Getty Images
Young olive trees. Photo: Getty Images Young olive trees. Photo: Getty Images

A new study has claimed that millions of birds are killed every winter in southern Europe during the harvesting of olives because of modern harvesting technologies being used, according to a report in the British media.

The study says the birds “are vacuumed out of trees and killed each year.” It explains that millions of birds from northern and western Europe fly to the southern parts of the continent like Andalusia in Spain, Portugal, southern France and Italy at the start of winter each year.

They roost at night in olive bushes. That is also the time of harvesting olives, with the harvest lasting from October to January.

The harvest takes place at night since the cooler temperatures help preserve the olives’ aromatic flavours.

The report describes how, when the machines “start stripping the olive trees of their fruits, they produce light which disorient the birds, who then get sucked into them.”

The numbers of dead birds are unbelievable. The report notes that in Andalusia, 2.6 million birds are killed by harvesting tractors every winter. The species include robins, greenfinches, warblers and wagtails.  

In Portugal, 96,000 birds die every winter as a result of the farming technique. The numbers in Southern France and Italy are not known.

There are as many as 100 dead birds in each harvest trailer, according to the research.

The report quoted the lead author of the research as saying that if the machines are used during the day, they would not disorient and kill the birds.     

Top commentators on Indian agriculture and wildlife tweeted their concern on the report.

While authorities in Andalusia have recommended a stop to the practice, a legislation is needed to permanently stop it. Portugal, France and Italy’s opinion in the matter is not known

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