Europe and Central Asia
14 May 2020

Why the caged birdwatchers sing: raising awareness during confinement

by Diane Helentjaris
By Jeremy Herry

How do you raise awareness on the importance to protect birds, beautiful winged creatures of the outdoors, when everyone is staying inside?

Across the map, birdwatching events and bird fairs have been cancelled, and nature reserves have been closed, but that hasn’t stopped BirdLife partners from keeping birds in the spotlight. Throughout Europe and Central Asia, they have shown innovation and creativity to bring our feathered friends to people’s eyes, ears and hearts. Here’s a sample of what they’re doing.

Let’s start with activity that’s been popular on many windowsills: home birdwatching! Even people who had never tried birdwatching before have taken up this fun and educational activity – and BirdLife partners have been providing the tools to do so from your window. In Italy, Turkey, Austria, and Croatia and elsewhere, our partners have been driving a growing home-birdwatching movement in their countries. In Montenegro, our partner CZIP is collecting citizens’ confinement photos of migratory birds to share on their facebook page, and our French partner, LPO, organised a nationwide garden bird census! Would you like to know more about the birds you see? You may want to use the very handy online bird identifier, produced by our British partner RSPB. You can also watch birds on your screen: several partners have set up livestreaming services to watch birds. On CZIP’s website, you can watch a stork nest in real time!

Many bird-lovers were disappointed to find out that major outdoor birding events had been cancelled – but confinement couldn’t stop our partners. They adapted the events so that everyone could join from home! In Finland, to replace an annual traditional bird tower event, our partner organised a nationwide home bird-counting event on 9 May. In Portugal, our partner SPEA replaced the annual buzzard count in Madeira and Azores with a ‘spot the buzzard from your window’ community challenge. The famous ‘Champions of the Flyway’ bird-counting fundraising event had to be done from home, too – and joint collaboration between several partners made sure it was a resounding success. In just 24 hours, 400 birdwatchers from 30 worldwide teams identified 1130 species and raised $42,000 to protect the Steppe Eagle!

Are you home-schooling at the moment? In Macedonia, our partner is supporting parents and children by publishing educational material on lynxes, plants, birds and Macedonian wildlife. For some kids, confinement has ignited a passion for bird art - in Croatia, our partner Biom has been sharing bird drawings made by confined schoolchildren!

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Education is a lifelong endeavour, and you don’t have to be a child to want to learn more about birds: if you speak French, why not take up an online course on ornithology? Created by our French partner LPO and Belgian partner Natagora, this is a very rich course with over 150 hours of learning material. Our Czech partner, CSO, has been actively promoting citizen science for all ages throughout confinement, and prepared a webpage compiling birdwatching activities during confinement.

In Austria, our partner has been keeping up the community spirit by organising social media quizzes on Central European birds. LPO France has been organising bird quizzes on various themes too! Among other initiatives, our Czech partner launched a brand new online live programme to stay in touch with their supporters, our French partner has given full open access to their online magazine, and is sharing good gardening practices on social media. SPEA, our Portuguese partner, is also sharing daily tips to bring nature to your home during confinement, and BirdLife Iceland is sharing a special ‘bird of the day’ every day on Facebook: they started with a European Golden Plover.

All these activities, from home birdwatching to social media quizzes and photography challenges, have one thing in common: our collective love for birds and nature. Thanks to the awareness-raising work of nature conservation NGOs, this love, this passion, is kept alive, and helps bring some joy to households across Europe and Central Asia. This period of confinement will come to an end. Quails, storks and lapwings will see us roam the outdoors once again. In the meanwhile, let’s appreciate their magnificence from our windowsills.

Stichting BirdLife Europe gratefully acknowledges financial support from the European Commission. All content and opinions expressed on these pages are solely those of Stichting BirdLife Europe. The European Commission is not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.