As many as two million birds per year may be killed illegally in Northern and Central Europe and the Caucasus region – mainly for sport or “pest” control, according to a new report released by BirdLife International on October 24.

The layman’s report, titled The Killing 2.0, A View to a Kill, exposes the scale and scope of the illegal killing of birds across critical regions.

The Killing 2.0 shows that illegal killing of birds remain a major threat in Europe, even though 28 of the countries recently assessed by BirdLife are parties to the legally binding Bern Convention (on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats), and 19 are also member states of the European Union, obliged to implement the EU Birds and Habitats Directives.

“You, me, all of us, have to stop this massacre and realize there are rules and regulations in place for a reason,” said BirdLife International CEO, Patricia Zurita. “Birds are part of our common heritage, one that we are responsible to take care of and pass on to new generations in better shape.”

According to Zurita, BirdLife’s data shows how much room for improvement there is. “We hope the shocking results of The Killing 2.0 help galvanise action to end illegal killing across Europe, the Caucasus and the rest of the flyway.”

According to the report, the bird groups most affected (in terms of absolute numbers) are waterbirds followed by passerines.

In Azerbaijan, between 160,000 and 900,000 waterbirds are estimated to be killed illegally per year. Raptors, as well as pigeons and doves are also badly affected.

The bird group with the highest percentage of species affected are the raptors – 51 of 52 raptor species are affected by illegal killing.

In both Central Europe and the Caucasus, the lead driver behind illegal bird killing is sport. In Northern Europe, the main motivation behind illegal bird killing is predator and so-called “pest” control.

The 20 worst locations reported for the illegal killing of individual birds in Northern Europe, Central Europe and the Caucasus are found in six “hotspot” countries: Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Germany and the Netherlands.

The top six kill zones all fall within Azerbaijan. At the Greater and Lesser Gizilagach Bays, on the country’s south-east coast, the number of birds killed each year represents a staggering 18% of the mean estimated annual total of birds illegally killed across the region, and for all species combined.

The new report offers a first scientific baseline on illegal killing of birds in Northern Europe, Central Europe and the Caucasus.