Monitoring waterbird populations

Waterbirds cover thousands or even tens of thousands of kilometres every year during their annual migratory cycle between their breeding and non-breeding areas. Thus many countries have a shared responsibility for the monitoring and management of waterbird populations. We support these efforts by aggregating counts from national monitoring schemes into the International Waterbird Census. We use these counts to monitor the status and trends of waterbird species. These analyses allow us to support major international and national policies to conserve and manage waterbird populations and key wetland sites.

International Waterbird Census (IWC)

The International Waterbird Census (IWC) has run since 1967 and today covers over 25,000 sites in more than 100 countries. In each country national coordinators work with a network of professional and amateur counters to provide waterbird counts to the IWC. In total, more than 15,000 people submit their data annually, making this one of the largest global monitoring schemes largely based on citizen science.

There are 4 separate regional schemes of the IWC that  represent the major flyways of the world. Click on the links below to learn more about the regional websites and to contribute to the IWC in your part of the world: 

50 Years of the International Waterbird Census - Let’s Make it Count!

2016 marks the 50th count of the IWC and is an important moment to celebrate the achievements of the global partnership of national and local agencies, organisations and individuals who volunteer their time and efforts as national coordinators and volunteers to collect the information.

Linked to this event, Wetlands International will launch a global campaign to inspire and promote action for the conservation of wetlands along the world’s flyways. We invite all governments, experts, organisations, companies and volunteers to work with us and step up efforts to conserve wetlands for waterbirds. Read more.

Waterbird Monitoring Partnership

We collaborate closely with other organisations, specialist groups and international bodies, both individually and through the Waterbird Monitoring Partnership. Among other functions, the Waterbird Monitoring Partnership integrates the International Waterbird Census with other monitoring schemes and expertise to improve the scientific basis of our work. 

Waterbird Population Estimates

A key example of our collaborative approach is our Waterbird Population Estimates (WPE) information portal. Here we collect, review data and provide current knowledge on the size and trends of over 2000 waterbird populations worldwide. The online database launched in July 2012 makes it easy to obtain information on the current status of waterbird species, providing a comprehensive basis for management and decision making. All previous editions of the WPE series are included, and the latest Conservation Status Reports for the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement. The main objectives of the series has been to: 
  1. identify wetlands of international importance through the application of the 1% threshold criteria under the Ramsar; 
  2. identify priorities for conservation and research to maintain global waterbird biodiversity; 
  3. identify gaps in knowledge of the world’s waterbird populations; 
  4. support the development of three global conventions – the Ramsar Convention on WetlandsConvention on Migratory Species and the Convention on Biological Diversity
  5. support the development of regional/flyway initiatives, including:

African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) under the Convention on Migratory Species;

Convention on the Conservation of European Flora and Fauna (Berne Convention);

East Asian - Australasian Flyway (EAAF) Partnership;

European Union Birds Directive; and

Western Hemisphere Shorebird Reserve Network (WHSRN). 

To learn more about the programme and access previous editions, click here.


For more information or to participate in the International Waterbird Census, please contact:

Taej Mundkur
IWC Coordinator