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Britain's £20 million bird watchers

[Saturday 19 August 2006]

British Trust for Ornithology Director Professor Jeremy Greenwood will today (August 19) tell 1,300 of the World's leading ornithologists, gathered in Germany, that "Britain leads the World" in bird research, largely because British birdwatchers spend 1.6 million hours each year contributing to bird surveys.

In monetary terms, he estimated that this huge amateur effort would cost £20 million if it were carried out by paid professionals.

Britain leads the world in bird research

The professor will urge bird experts from around the world to make full use of volunteer birdwatchers when monitoring changes in bird populations and setting conservation agendas. In an hour-long lecture to the 24th International Ornithological Congress in Hamburg, he will talk about Citizens, Science and Bird Conservation.

Writing about his lecture prior to his departure for Germany, Professor Greenwood praised the achievements as well as the efforts of birdwatchers:

"Amateurs make a major contribution to ornithology and bird conservation science. They always have and there is no sign of their contribution diminishing. They do between one and two million hours of work in the UK alone each year.

"Though they may have no formal qualifications, they have considerable expertise, gained from many years of devotion to the subject.

Areas to which they have contributed include:

  • the study of migration - by observation and through bird ringing

  • distributional atlases

  • censuses, monitoring and demographic studies

  • breeding biology - through the BTO's Nest Record Scheme

"Their work has not only identified the declines of many species but has also helped to discover the causes of those declines and how they can be reversed."

Professor Greenwood added: "The information obtained by British amateurs has assisted Government in devising schemes to benefit birds and other wildlife on farms. It has fed into reform of the Common Agricultural Policy and is used to produce one of the UK Government's Quality of Life indicators.

"Although similar monitoring goes on in many countries around the world, Britain leads the world in the involvement of birdwatchers in such serious scientific work."

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