Research and conservation across borders

Understanding and conserving birds calls for collaboration beyond national borders. The Swiss Ornithological Institute has been engaging in international activities for a long time.

Red-crested Pochard
Red-crested Pochard
Photo © Marcel Burkhardt

The Swiss Ornithological Institute in Sempach, also known as Vogelwarte, is firmly committed to studying and conserving birds and their habitats. In this context, an international perspective is essential, and the Vogelwarte takes pride in its tradition of conducting and fostering international projects. The 22nd conference of the European Bird Census Council EBCC in April 2022 offers an opportunity to shed light on the international work of the Vogelwarte.

A recent example illustrating the international involvement of the Vogelwarte is EBBA2, the second European Breeding Bird Atlas published in 2020. Under the auspices of EBCC, the Vogelwarte coordinated the project with a team of European experts and was heavily involved in data analysis as well as the production of maps and texts.

The Institute has been supporting various other international projects related to bird monitoring. One of the best known is ornitho. ch, the popular citizen-science platform to record animal observations online or via the Natura-List App. The Vogelwarte played a key role in developing and promoting the platform first in Switzerland and subsequently in several European countries. We have also been among the founders of European initiatives like EuroBirdPortal (EBP) and the Pan- European Common Bird Monitoring Scheme (PECBMS). Both projects allow for continent-wide overviews of seasonal and temporal changes in bird distribution as well as trends of breeding populations.

The Vogelwarte has long been examining the factors affecting the ecology, behaviour and physiology of birds in Switzerland and beyond. For example, bird migration has been studied with dedicated radars in Switzerland since the late 1960s, an investigation that has since expanded to the Mediterranean and the Sahara. As of late, weather radars are used to quantify the flow of bird and insect biomasses across the continent. The advent of geolocators, to which the Vogelwarte and partners have contributed some of the smallest available devices, has made it possible to examine the whereabouts of increasingly small bird species outside the breeding season. Many of these geolocator studies are conducted with international collaborators.

Since 2021, the Vogelwarte has been running the coordination unit of the African-Eurasian Migratory Landbirds Action Plan AEMLAP on behalf of the Convention on Migratory Species CMS. The AEMLAP aims to improve the conservation status of migratory landbirds through internationally coordinated actions in the African- Eurasian region, and thus to conserve and restore species and sustainably manage their habitats.