The value of counting birds for people and nature

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The International Waterbird Census enters its 52nd year as one of the largest citizen science programmes in the world. Up to today, the census has counted 1.5 billion waterbirds in 50,000 sites in about 180 countries.

Every blue dot on the map shows where volunteers have taken part in the International Waterbird Census in the years since 1967.

Every lake, river, salt pan, sewage pond, lagoon, mangrove forest, reservoir and mudflat has a story to tell. Not all of them are positive, though – 38% of the world’s waterbird populations are in decline and so much of the wetlands they rely upon have degraded or disappeared in the lifetime of this census. Nevertheless, every year brings new knowledge and hope, for instance, increasing numbers of wintering migrants, new areas colonised by local populations, new wetland gems discovered and old ones recovered.

The International Waterbird Census data identifies sites that need to be protected and alerts us to the failing fortunes of waterbird populations. It tells us that protection works and warns us of the disastrous effects of mismanagement, for example, draining wetlands for irrigation purposes without taking into consideration the negative impacts on people and nature. Counting birds around the world gives valuable information to governments, conservation organisations, the private sector, communities and others on how the natural world is changing in response to our actions and what we can do to restore the areas that have been affected. That way wetlands can be better managed for the wellbeing of people in terms of food security and social peace, helping meet the Sustainable Development Goals.

The International Waterbird Census, the largest volunteer waterbird count in the world, is led by Wetlands International with many organisations and people at national and regional level. Join us in January 2018 for the 52nd International Waterbird Census. Share your blue dot on Twitter or Facebook with the hashtags #IWC2018 and #waterbirdscount. Or support this global initiative by contributing to the Waterbird Fund.

The 2018 International Waterbird Census takes place:

Asia-Pacific: 6 – 21 January
Africa-Eurasia: 13 – 14 January
Caribbean: 14 January – 3 February
Central America: 15 January – 15 February
The Neotropics: 3 – 18 February and 7 – 22 July