Trees are stripped of olives and the birds resting in them are also sucked into the machines, researchers have warned

Hundreds of thousands of legally-protected birds are killed in southern Europe every year after being sucked out of trees and into machines which are harvesting olives.

During the winter months from October to January, millions of birds from northern Europe, including the UK, flock to Mediterranean countries to escape the cold weather.

It is thought around 96,000 birds die every year in Portugal alone as a result of harvesting for olive oil production during the night-time. France and Italy also carry out the practice, but specific numbers are not known.

The Andalusian government in Spain, where an estimated 2.6 million birds used to be vacuumed up annually, has now stopped the practice.


Other big olive-producing countries should follow their lead, say researchers.

The problem of birds being vacuumed from the bushes is on a "catastrophic scale", according to the findings reported in the journal Nature.

Birds such as robins, goldfinches, greenfinches, warblers and wagtails are among those that suffer the biggest casualties.

It is believed there are around 100 dead birds in each harvest trailer during a night-time operation.

The trees are stripped of the fruits at night because cooler temperatures help to preserve the olives' aromatic flavours.

But in the dark there is less chance of the birds spotting the machines because they are sleeping.

However, if the harvesting happened during the day they could see them and then escape.

If you, like us, were horrified to hear of this practice and want to search for some bird-friendly Andalucian alternatives to buy then we've found a few options online for you: