Stop harvesting olives at night — it kills millions of songbirds

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Research Center in Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, Vairão, Portugal.

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From October to January, millions of birds from central and northern Europe winter in the Mediterranean basin. Suction olive harvesting at night kills these legally protected birds on a catastrophic scale as they rest in the bushes. This year, Spain’s Andalusian government recommended that the practice be stopped; currently, an estimated 2.6 million birds are vacuumed up annually in the country (see Other big olive-producing countries should follow their lead.

Some 96,000 birds die in Portugal annually as a result of night-time olive harvesting (see, for example, The Portuguese government has so far taken no action; France and Italy remain silent.

The trees are stripped at night because cool temperatures help to preserve the olives’ aromatic compounds. Local governments and local, national and international communities urgently need to assess the impact of the practice and take steps to end it.

Nature 569, 192 (2019)

doi: 10.1038/d41586-019-01456-4

Updates & Corrections

  • Correction 24 May 2019: An earlier version of this Correspondence incorrectly stated that Spain’s Andalusian government ended night-time suction harvesting of olives this year.

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