1 Aug 2018

Celebrating 30 years of Birdfair: 3 decades of global conservation impact

Every year proceeds from the British Birdwatching Fair, dubbed the ‘Glastonbury of birdwatching’, go towards a conservation project, chosen and managed by BirdLife. We look back at the successes of the past 30 years.

Last year's project to remove invasive species from the island of Rapa Iti is now underway
2017's project to remove invasive species from Rapa Iti is now underway
By Jessica Law

This summer, the British Birdwatching Fair will celebrate its 30th birthday – marking three decades of global conservation impact. Every year proceeds from the event, dubbed the ‘Glastonbury of birdwatching’, go towards a conservation project, chosen and managed by BirdLife. The result: millions of pounds raised towards saving some of the world’s most threatened species and sites, and the formation of some of our cornerstone projects…


1989: Stop the Massacre Campaign


Birds that benefit: Migratory birds in the Miditerranean, focusing on the European Robin Erithacus Rubecula

Amount raised: £3,000

ICBP (International Council for Bird Preservation, rebranded BirdLife in 1993) aimed to tackle hunting and trapping with the first Birdfair project. Birdfair supported an education programme lead by BirdLife Malta, which generated huge publicity in Malta.


1990: Helping Save Spain’s Doñana National Park


Birds that benefit: Eurasian Spoonbill Platalea leucorodia, Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus, Greater Flamingo Phoenicopterus roseus

Amount raised: £10,000

Doñana wetlands faced its biggest threat with the proposal of a huge tourist development: “Costa Doñana”. This campaign halted the development and financed a visitor centre.


1991: Danube Delta Project


Birds that benefit: Dalmatian Pelican Pelecanus Crispus (Near Threatened), White-headed Duck Oxyura leucocephala (Endangered), Pygmy Cormorant Microcarbo pygmaeus

Amount raised: £20,000

The Danube Delta’s wetlands escaped the threat of drainage when the new administration declared it a World Heritage Site and a Ramsar Site. However, wardens lacked basic equipment. Birdfair funded the provision of essential kit.


1992: Spanish Steppes Appeal


Birds that benefit: Great Bustard Otis tarda (Vulnerable), Little Bustard Tetrax tetrax (Near Threatened), Dupont’s Lark Chersophilus duponti (Near Threatened)

Amount raised: £30,000

Spain’s sweeping grasslands faced destruction by large-scale irrigation schemes funded by the EU. The Spanish Steppes Appeal was one of the first truly effective examples of European-level collaborative conservation across the newly re-modelled BirdLife International Partnership.


1993: Polish Wetlands Project


Birds that benefit: Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola (Vulnerable), Corncrake Crex crex

Amount raised: £40,000

Birdfair supported the Polish Society for the Protection of Birds (OTOP) to update its directory of wetland Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) and seek protection for these areas. The funds have also helped Poland’s first reserve in the Swina Estuary protect Aquatic Warblers.


1994: Project Halmahera


Birds that benefit: Standardwing Bird-of-paradise Semioptera Wallacii

Amount raised: £41,000

In 1994, Halmahera was the largest Indonesian island not to possess any National Parks or other protected areas. Birdfair funded research to pinpoint priority areas for protection. Sadly, civil unrest in the area disrupted the process, but BirdLife clung on, and the first National Park was declared in 2004.


1995: Moroccan Wetlands Project


Birds that benefit: Slender-billed Curlew Numenius tenuirostris (Critically Endangered), Marbled Teal Marmaronetta angustirostris (Vulnerable), Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii (Near Threatened)

Amount raised: £45,000

Sandwiched between sea and desert, the wetlands along the Moroccan coast are a lifeline for migrating waterbirds. But they are also under pressure from human use. Birdfair funded the better management of key sites along this route.


1996: Ke Go Forest Project


Birds that benefit: Edwards’s Pheasant Lophura edwardsi (Critically Endangered), Crested Argus Rheinardia ocellata (Near Threatened), Red-collared Woodpecker Picus rabieri (Near Threatened)

Amount raised: £50,000

Ke Go is the one of the few remaining blocks of lowland forest in Vietnam. In 1996, with the publicity and financial backing of Birdfair, it was declared a nature reserve. BirdLife continues to fight the ever-present threat of illegal logging.


1997: Mindo Important Bird Area Project


Birds that benefit: Black-breasted Puffleg Eriocnemis nigrivestis (Critically Endangered), Andean Cock-of-the-rock Rupicola peruvianus

Amount raised: £60,000

In 1997, with the help of Birdfair, Ecuador’s species-rich Mindo cloud-forest was declared the first IBA in the whole of South America, launching BirdLife’s IBA programme in that continent.


1998: BirdLife International Threatened Birds Programme


Birds that benefit: Blue-throated Macaw Ara glaucogularis (Critically Endangered), Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea (Critically Endangered)

Amount raised: £120,000

With one in eight bird species threatened with extinction, Birdfair funded research to gather information on their populations, creating the landmark book Threatened Birds of the World, crucial in informing conservation action.


1999: Rescuing Brazil’s Atlantic Forests


Birds that benefit: Seven-coloured Tanager Tangara fastuosa (Vulnerable), Alagoas Antwren Myrmotherula snowi (Critically Endangered), Bahia Tyrannulet Phylloscartes beckeri (Endangered)

Amount raised: £130,000

Forty-three of Brazil’s 103 threatened bird species depend on its dwindling Atlantic forests. 1999’s Birdfair project aimed to preserve them. Successes included Murici forest being declared an Ecological Station.


2000: Save the Albatross Campaign – Keeping the World’s Seabirds off the Hook


Birds that benefit: Seabirds including the Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans (Vulnerable)

Amount raised: £122,000

Albatrosses are the most threatened group of seabird, and one of the biggest threats is death on the baited hooks of long-line fisheries. Birdfair funded the launch of the Global Seabird Programme, which paved the way for BirdLife’s highly successful Albatross Task Force.


2001: Eastern Cuba – Saving a Unique Caribbean Wilderness


Birds that benefit: Ivory-billed Woodpecker Campephilus principalis (Critically Endangered), Bee Hummingbird Mellisuga helenae (Near Threatened)

Amount raised: £135,000

Cuba hosts 350 bird species, including the world’s smallest bird, the Bee Hummingbird. Birdfair funded vital research, providing field equipment and setting up Cuba’s IBA network, which attracted funding for the entire Caribbean.


2002: Saving the Last Lowland Rainforests in Sumatra


Birds that benefit: Red-naped Trogon Harpactes kasumba (Near Threatened)

Amount raised: £147,000

Birdfair funded Burung Indonesia (BirdLife Partner) to identify priority areas of Sumatra’s dwindling lowland rainforest for protection. After intense lobbying, the government issued the very first forest restoration license to preserve one such forest from logging and plantations.


2003: Saving Madagascar’s Fragile Wetlands


Birds that benefit: Madagascar Fish-eagle Haliaeetus vociferoides (Critically Endangered), Sakalava Rail Zapornia olivieri (Endangered), Madagascar Heron Ardea humbloti (Endangered)

Amount raised: £157,000

This project engaged local people, working with governments, communities and businesses to draw up legal agreements. These have now expanded into two Protected Areas.


2004: Saving Northern Peru’s Dry Forests


Birds that benefit: White-winged Guan Penelope albipennis (Critically Endangered), Marvelous Spatuletail Loddigesia mirabilis (Endangered), Long-whiskered Owlet Xenoglaux loweryi (Endangered)

Amount raised: £164,000

Sandwiched between the Andes, the Sechura Desert and the Pacific Ocean, this isolated region is one of the top ten most biologically unique areas of the planet. Birdfair funded several successful conservation projects here.


2005: Saving Gurney’s Pittas and their Forest Home


Birds that benefit: Gurney’s Pitta Hydrornis gurneyi (Endangered)

Amount raised: £200,000

Gurney’s Pitta was thought to be lost, so their discovery in Myanmar’s lowland forests was a fantastic event – but also an urgent one, with the forest threatened by clearance for oil palm plantations. Birdfair-funded fieldwork advanced our understanding of this bird.


2006: Saving the Pacific’s Parrots


Birds that benefit: New Caledonian Lorikeet Charmosyna diadema (Critically Endangered), Rimatara Lorikeet Vini kuhlii (Endangered), Ouvea Parakeet Eunymphicus uvaeensis (Endangered)

Amount raised: £215,000

Birdfair funded conservation across the Pacific region, focusing on six threatened parrot species. A major success involved Rima Lorikeets being re-introduced to their original home island of Aitu, where they now thrive.


2007: Preventing Extinctions Programme


Birds that benefit: Bengal Florican Houbaropsis bengalensis (Critically Endangered), Djibouti Francolin Pternistis ochropectus (Critically Endangered)

Amount raised: £226,000

Birdfair helped start BirdLife’s initiative to save Critically Endangered birds, linking Species Champions (organisations or individuals providing funds to save a species) with Species Guardians (leading targeted action on the ground).


2008: Preventing Extinctions Programme


Birds that benefit: Araripe Manakin Antilophia bokermanni (Critically Endangered), Sociable Lapwing Vanellus gregarius (Critically Endangered), Azores Bullfinch Pyrrhula murina (now Vulnerable)

Amount raised: £265,000

Building on 2007’s success, a further six Critically Endangered birds were highlighted, and the search for Species Champions to “adopt” them proved very successful.


2009: Preventing Extinctions Programme: “Lost and Found”


Birds that benefit: Fiji Petrel Pseudobulweria macgillivrayi (Critically Endangered), Makira Moorhen Pareudiastes silvestris (Critically Endangered)

Amount raised: £263,000

Birdfair funded work to establish whether 15 “lost” species survived in the wild – thus informing conservation decisions. A successful example was the search for the Fiji Petrel, which uncovered eight individuals.


2010: Southern Ethiopian Endemics


Birds that benefit: Liben Lark Heteromirafra archeri (Critically Endangered), Ethiopian Bushcrow Zavattariornis stresemanni (Endangered), White-tailed Swallow Hirundo megaensis (Vulnerable)

Amount raised: £243,000

Ethiopia’s endemic birds are increasingly threatened. Birdfair funded the Ethiopian Wildlife and Natural History Society (BirdLife Partner) to work with locals to preserve the Liben Lark’s tiny grassland range.


2011: Flyways Programme – African-Eurasian Flyway


Birds that benefit: Eurasian Cuckoo Cuculus canorus, European Turtle-dove Streptopelia turtur (Now Vulnerable)

Amount raised: £227,000

In its first year of Birdfair support, the BirdLife Flyways Programme focused on birds breeding in Europe but overwintering in sub-Saharan Africa. Birdfair helped raise awareness, and a new Flyway Action Plan was spearheaded.


2012: Flyways Programme – East Asia-Australasian Flyway


Birds that benefit: Spoon-billed Sandpiper Calidris pygmaea (Critically Endangered), Spotted Greenshank Tringa guttifer (Endangered)

Amount raised: £200,000

2012’s project empowered Partners across East Asia to protect key wetlands, used by 50 million migratory waterbirds but encroached upon by human expansion. The Gulf of Martaban in Myanmar was declared a Ramsar site.


2013: Flyways Programme – Americans Flyway (Prairies to Pampas)


Birds that benefit: Bobolink Dolichonyx oryzivorus, Swainson’s Hawk Buteo swainsoni

Amount raised: £270,000

Across the Americas’ grasslands, traditional ranching is giving way to intensive livestock rearing. 2013 focused on supporting Partners in South America’s Southern Cone, with initiatives such as “bird-friendly” beef certification, and protecting important grassland sites.


2014: Saving the Seas and Oceans


Birds that benefit: Macaroni Penguin Eudyptes chrysolophus (Vulnerable), Audouin’s Gull Larus audouinii

Amount raised: £280,000

Oceans cover 70% of the Earth’s surface, yet conservation actions for marine areas lag behind those for other environments. Birdfair funded action by BirdLife Partners looking to increase marine conservation. The project also included efforts to protect Antarctica and the High Seas.


2015: Protecting Migratory Birds in the Eastern Mediterranean


Birds that benefit: White stork Ciconia ciconia, Red Knot Calidris Canutus (Vulnerable), Barn Swallow Hirundo rustica

Amount raised: £320,000

Roughly 25 million migratory birds are killed illegally each year as they cross the Mediterranean. BirdLife International worked to reduce this by advocating for the strengthening of protective laws throughout the region.


2016: Saving Africa’s Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas


Birds that benefit: Brown Mesite Mesitornis unicolor (Vulnerable), Madagascar Blue-pigeon Alectroenas madagascariensis

Amount raised: £350,000

Forest loss is a severe problem across the African continent. In 2016 Birdfair focused on Tsitongambarika Forest, which has a huge number of endemic species, making it biologically extraordinary, even by Madagascar’s lofty standards.


2017: Saving Paradise in the Pacific


Birds that benefit: Rapa Fruit-dove Ptilinopus huttoni (Endangered), Newell’s Shearwater Puffinus newelli (Endangered), Polynesian Storm Petrel Nesofregetta fuliginosa (Endangered)

Amount raised: £333,000

On the French Polynesian island of Rapa Iti, invasive non-native species are decimating populations of native birds. Money from Birdfair will help BirdLife to remove invasive species in order to restore the islands.


2018: A Haven for Argentina’s Flamingos


Birds that benefit: Andean Flamingo Phoenicoparrus andinus (Vulnerable), Chilean Flamingo Phoenicopterus chilensis (Near Threatened), Puna Flamingo Phoenicoparrus jamesi (Near Threatened)

Amount raised: TBC

This year, we’re turning Birdfair pink – to celebrate plans to create what will become Argentina’s largest National Park, and a safe haven for over a million waterbirds.

Birdfair will take place from the 17th - 19th of August at Egleton Nature Reserve, Rutland, UK.