How a rare bird drove Ed Sheeran out of a west German town

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How a rare bird drove Ed Sheeran out of a west German town
Ed Sheeran. Photo: DPA

Ed Sheeran wanted to perform at an airport near Essen, but a certain animal had other ideas: the rare Skylark. The rare bird lives nearby and would have had to be resettled. Then there was a protest. Ultimately, the birds were victorious.


It is something pop stars already know: When they visit a city for a big performance, there will be a lot of inconveniences for the local residents - traffic congestion, noise, chaos. This was exactly the case for the city of Essen, where Ed Sheeran wanted to hold a concert this summer.

However, in this case the noise-sensitive locals were not Essen’s human population, but rather its birds. Resident at the Essen/Mülheim airport is the rare Skylark, a brown/beige bird that is protected by the German government. According to the Nature Conservation Union of Germany (NABU) estimates, the airport is home to about eight to nine breeding pairs of Skylarks. NABU notes that in the face of unrestrained destruction of the breeding habitats, airports are still one of the safe spaces for the endangered species. It is this bird that has expelled Ed Sheeran from Germany’s Ruhr region.

Sheeran concert organizers announced Monday that due to the "uncertainties and concerns about the local bird population" in Essen, the pop star’s concert will be held instead at Düsseldorf’s Exhibition Centre on July 22nd. In other words, the birds have won.

The Skylark is an endangered bird species, with a few eight or nine breeding pairs currently living in an airport near Essen. Photo: DPA

The concert, which was to be held in a wing of the airport, has caused a great deal of controversy for Sheeran: the Species Protection Agency for Essen initially decided that the grass-breeding Skylark should not be allowed to nest at the airport until the summer, and thus make room for Sheeran’s concert. This decision incited fierce criticism among many in the conservation community. An endangered bird species should never be scared away for "purely economic reasons", stated the NABU.

Before the decision to move the concert to Düsseldorf, a resettlement of the birds into temporary retreats off-site was expected to begin in March, with Sheeran’s team footing the bill. However, there were additional problems: the analysis of aerial photos revealed 103 suspected cases of wartime bombs left over from WWII. These photos should have been checked before the selection of Essen as the concert venue, and led to further complications for the red-headed pop icon.

To Ed Sheeran fans who care less about the birds than about their idol's performance, there is no need to worry about missing out: The more than 80,000 tickets already sold for the Essen concert will be valid at the new Düsseldorf location.

For those who haven’t reserved a seat yet, be warned: The tickets are not cheap. On the online portal "Viagogo", the tickets still available cost more than €210. In addition to the Düsseldorf venue, Sheeran has planned concerts in Munich, Berlin, and Hamburg.

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