Bird Population Monitoring

The Bird Population Monitoring (BPM) programme (scheme) is an international programme that targets common bird species. The main aim of this scheme is to monitor trends in the population of bird species thought to be common in our areas. “Common species” are species that are widespread over a variety of habitats. They are usually ignored in many conservation drives, which usually target the threatened or endangered species or protected and designated areas. This scheme is running in Africa, Botswana and Uganda being the pioneer countries and more countries continue to join the scheme.

In Uganda, the scheme, coordinated by NatureUganda, has been running since 2009, with counts done twice a year in January and July, using line transect method. Transects are approximately 2km long divided into ten sections, each measuring 200m for easier estimation of the 2km. Counts are done by volunteers who are mainly interested birders and researchers ranging from staff and members of NatureUganda, to ranger-guides from Uganda wildlife Authority (UWA) and bird guides as well as local guides from the community. The data obtained is fed into the International Common Birds Monitoring Database. This data can be used by the African Wild Birds Indicator and the Global Wild Birds Indicator Schemes to inform regional and global conservation actions for the protection birds.

Birds as indicators

Birds occur in nearly all habitats, often reflect trends in other animals and plants, and are sensitive to environmental change. Their populations can faithfully reflect wider-scale changes in nature and biodiversity, and thus be used to report upon sustainability of lifestyles. Indicators based upon common bird populations can communicate vital information on habitat changes, driven by both direct anthropogenic habitat loss and modification, and indirect effects, including the impact of climate change.

Environmental degradation of this kind may have profound consequences for the lives of people by reducing natural resources and the ecosystem services upon which they depend. Importantly, birds, and particularly those species that are common and widespread, have a real connection with people and their lives.

Common bird indicators are especially useful in showing change in the overall condition of ecosystems, which is difficult and expensive to measure directly. More so, we may be facing declines of common bird populations without our knowledge, yet such declines would indicate a fundamental flaw in the way we treat our environment and thus influence the way we behave.

The value of  Common Birds Monitoring Scheme

  1. The Bird Population Scheme is used to raise awareness of the conservation of birds by using volunteers from communities who continuously monitor common species. We are impressed with the increasing curiosity from the public to know how the birds are counted and for what use during the counts. This gave an opportunity to demystify a thinking of looking at birds as pests.
  2. It is a training opportunity for the young scholars and scientists. We were able to have three interns and 16 community site monitors trained in bird monitoring of which BPM was among. During the activities, we provided training opportunities to beginners for hands on experience. Through using volunteers, we are able to build on good cadres for future monitoring as well as ambassadors for conservation of biodiversity.
  3. It is unique tool as many monitoring programmes focus on rare or threatened species or on specific sites usually protected areas whereas this focuses on common birds that we often take for granted and also unprotected areas that have turned out to be great habitats for the birds.
  4. This scheme can be used to inform policy decisions by the government on the conservation of biodiversity at a national, regional or global level such as through conventions and treaties. Uganda has produced the first State of Uganda birds Report that has had good reception from both the agencies of government and relevant ministries mandated with conservation of biodiversity in Uganda. This is just one example of how the data can be used to inform actions. Already plans are underway to produce the next state of Uganda’s biodiversity to which this scheme will make substantial contribution.


Great appreciation to our volunteers who participate in this scheme whose data guides the conservation bird species nationally, regionally and globally. Greater appreciation to our partners for their financial and technical support rendered during this programme. We thank our partners Uganda Wildlife Authority, National Forestry Authority, and other private sector companies for their support in the scheme.