Migratory waterbirds

Waterbirds cover thousands or even tens of thousands of kilometres every year during their annual migratory cycle between their breeding and non-breeding areas. Countries therefore have a shared responsibility for the monitoring and conservation of these waterbird populations. With the help of thousands of volunteers we monitor these populations. We use this data for tools and advise to governments and international conventions.

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.

Together with the head office in the Netherlands, Wetlands International Africa coordinates of the African Eurasian Waterbird Census (AEWC) that covers the African Eurasian flyway, as part the International Waterbird Census. In Africa we train national park guards, communities and volunteers how to do the monitoring, which happens in January each year. Read more


The data from the AEWC is incorporated into the IWC and published in the Waterbird Population Estimates. Here we collect and review data and 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 status of waterbird species, providing a comprehensive basis for management and decision making. Read more

Critical Site Network (CSN) Tool

From the AEWC data, we have developed the Critical Site Network (CSN) Tool that shows wetland sites that are critical for waterbirds along the flyway. Governments and international conventions use the tool to set their priorities for waterbird conservation. Read more

International conventions

This flyway is covered by the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) which falls under the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP). Helping the implementation of this agreement, we provide key data from the AEWC , trends and other analyses, such as the Conservation Status Reports, and put our work on the agenda.

Critical Waterbird Sites

Click to access the online Critical Site Network Tool


Our Specialist Groups

We are supported in our daily work by a strong network of Associate Experts and a big selection of experts brought together in the Wetlands International - IUCN Specialist Groups.