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Article: Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring scheme

Pan-European Common Bird Monitoring Project has commenced in January 2002. The main project goal is to use common birds as indicators of the general state of nature using scientific data on changes in breeding populations across Europe.

Why common birds should be monitored at a European level?

  • Birds are good indicators of the health of the wider environment and thus of whether land use is sustainable.

  • Monitoring is a critical requirement in assessing the environmental policy process and effectiveness of various conservation measures and is required under various international treaties, including EU directives.

  • Many patterns of land use and development are affected by EU policies and it is important to measure their sustainability across Europe, including their impact on the accession countries to the EU.

Birds occur in a range of habitats, they reflect changes in other animals and plants, they are responsive to change, good data exist, data are realistic to collect, they have resonance with different audiences, and they are popular with the public.


Of the 195 bird species in Europe which have an unfavourable conservation status, 116 are farmland birds, whose population decline is being caused by changes in land use and management associated with agricultural intensification.

Project goal
To use birds’ numbers as bio-indicators of wider environment

Using data from large-scale monitoring schemes based on fieldwork of volunteers, with standardised methodology and formal design
Collecting data from already existing monitoring schemes in European countries and establishing new national monitoring schemes
Generating national and supra-national indices for individual species
Generating European composite indices for groups of species (indicators) annually on routine basis.

There are more than 20 national/regional large-scale sample breeding bird surveys across Europe which can be used for generating European indices and indicators (October 2003).

A method for using birds as indicators has already been developed at national level in the UK: the UK Government has included among’ its 15 headline ‘Quality of Life’ indicators of sustainability a common bird population index. Due to this data, the UK’s Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food has pledged to reverse the decline in farmland birds by 2020.

Our plans
To expand species coverage and number of countries
To improve existing monitoring schemes
To identify trends in particular habitats or sites (e.g. sites with agro-envi schemes in place, SPAs)

The project is undertaken through the common effort and shared goals of BirdLife International and European Bird Census Council (EBCC).

BirdLife International is a worldwide partnership of conservation organisations, represented in more than 100 countries (including more than 40 in Europe) and with more than 2.5 million members worldwide. BirdLife International works for the diversity of all life and the sustainable use of natural resources through the conservation of birds and their habitats.

The European Bird Census council (EBCC) brings together ornithologists from all European countries representing national bodies responsible for monitoring bird populations and their distribution, to encourage bird-monitoring work (especially atlassing and common bird monitoring) aimed both at better conservation and management of bird populations and at providing indicators of the changing ability of European landscapes to support wildlife generally.

The project is supported by Royal Society for Protection of Birds, BirdLife Partner in the UK.

Project coordinator:
Petr Voříšek, Czech Society for Ornithology, BirdLife Czech Republic, V Olšinách 449/41, CZ-100 00 Prague 10, Czech Republic, phone: 00420-274780601, e-mail: EuroMonitoring@birdlife.cz.
RSPB contacts:
Richard Gregory, Head of Monitoring and Survey, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom, SG19 2DL, Sandy, e-mail: richard.gregory@rspb.org.uk.
Zoltan Waliczky, EU Advocacy Manager, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy, Bedfordshire, United Kingdom, SG19 2DL, Sandy, e-mail: zoltan.waliczky@rspb.org.uk.

BirdLife partners and/or EBCC national delegates from following countries or territories are involved in the project:
Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Gibraltar, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

Author: Petr Voříšek

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