The first European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA1), published by the European Bird Census Council (EBCC) in 1997, was a milestone in European ornithology. European landscapes and climate, however, have seen marked changes since the 1980s, when most of the data for EBBA1 were collected. A new atlas project was therefore launched by EBCC in 2010 with the aim of providing up-to-date information on the distribution and abundance of birds in Europe and documenting changes since EBBA1.


The second European Breeding Bird Atlas (EBBA2) project was carried out by the EBCC network of partner organisations located in 48 countries, including the whole of eastern Europe. In total, around 120,000 fieldworkers contributed data to the atlas, the great majority of them on a voluntary basis, making EBBA2 one of the biggest citizen science projects on biodiversity ever. This tremendous collaborative effort made it possible to collect data from across 11 million square kilometres in a systematic manner. The main fieldwork period lasted five years, from 2013 to 2017.


In total, 596 species were recorded breeding, including 539 native species and 57 non-native species. Data on their breeding likelihood and abundance were collected for 5,110 50-km squares (96% of the study area). In addition, EBBA2 provides 10-km distribution models based on standardised surveys for the whole of Europe for 222 species, which allow to identify hotspots of occurrence for the more widespread species.


Many species have shown marked changes in distribution between the two atlas periods, and this has been carefully analysed in EBBA2 considering only areas with similar intensity of coverage. Change was assessed for 407 native species; of these, 187 showed an increase in distribution, 135 a decrease, and 85 species showed no change or an uncertain trend. Change patterns vary across biogeographic regions. The two coldest regions, the Arctic and Alpine regions, have gained the highest numbers of species in 30 years, whereas the Mediterranean region has shown a net loss of species.


By documenting the state of the European breeding avifauna using the most rigorous scientific approaches, this foundational work aims to encourage further research and effective action for the conservation of birds and biodiversity in general.