The major contributors to waterbird monitoring in the African-Eurasian flyway are volunteer birdwatchers who participate because they find counting birds enjoyable and rewarding. In most countries the census is coordinated professionally, and in many countries professionals also carry out much of the fieldwork (although often on a voluntary basis). Organisations coordinating various aspects of a more comprehensive waterbird monitoring schemes and the national coordinators and their networks together form the Waterbird Monitoring Partnership. For a full list and contact details of national coordinators and organisations we work with, click here.
Various waterbird populations require different monitoring schemes. The methodology of the International Waterbird Census requires a single count at each site around the middle weekend in January in Europe, Africa and West/Central Asia, with a second count in mid July in Sub-Saharan Africa. However, some groups of species such as geese, swans, seaducks, and waders on agricultural areas in some parts of their wintering range require special counts, which are organised in collaboration with the relevant WI/IUCN SSC Specialist Groups. More details are available on their websites.
Non-breeding counts are also complemented by counts during the breeding season coordinated by our sister organisations such as the European Bird Census Council or programmes such as the Arctic Breeding Bird Survey. The Field Protocol for waterbird counting provides some basic guidelines about waterbird counting methods (see Documents). Additional advice on waterbird counting is also available our Waterbird Forum.
Standardisation is a key principle for IWC counts. It is important that the same sites are covered in the same way each winter to maximise the validity of comparisons of counts from year to year. At the national level, national coordinators play a pivotal role in standardising counts in their countries and observers are encouraged to enquire the respective national coordinators how to collect and submit data.
Counters should submit their counts to their national coordinator as promptly as possible. To improve consistency and efficiency when providing counts to the IWC, we ask national coordinators to provide counts in the Wetlands International IWC Data Submission Form and to link counts to IWC site codes and names (see Documents to download the data submission form). For counts to be included in our annual reports, we request that national coordinators submit information to us by 30th September each year.
In many countries of the African-Eurasian flyway there are no national schemes despite the fact that they may support important wintering waterbird populations. Obtaining information about the importance of wetlands in these countries is also important to fill the gaps in our knowledge about key sites for migratory waterbirds. Visitors of such countries are encouraged to send their observations using one of the attached site and count forms. We also encourage parties interested in establishing a monitoring scheme in their country to contact us for more information.
The count information provided by volunteers and organisations supports important waterbird research and helps inform policy. Wetlands International uses the information for a great deal of biodiversity work, including:
In addition, waterbird count data are extensively used in scientific research that supports conservation and management of waterbird populations. Wetlands International, as the custodian of the IWC data, can facilitate access to data if the request does not conflict with our data sharing agreements with the national coordinators and respects our data access policy.