Our migratory bird projects

Globetrotters under fire

Protecting Europe's birds, not only in their breeding grounds but also on their migration routes, was the concept that led to the founding of EuroNatur. Even now, the protection of wild birds remains one of our most pressing challenges. In particular, the issue of bird hunting in the Balkans is proving to be an ongoing problem. Every year, around 25 million birds are illegally killed in the Mediterranean - about two million of them in the Western Balkan states. So far, there are only a few resting places where migratory birds are really safe there.

Many years ago, EuroNatur launched a program to protect the wetlands on the eastern Adriatic as well as the migratory birds which stop there on the long journey between their summer and winter habitats. Since then, we have been working intensively with our partners to put a permanent stop to the bird killing which occurs every year, and to preserve the habitats of migratory birds across borders.

Adriatic Flyway: Dangerous Route for Europe's Migratory Birds

Adriatic Flyway thumbnail with flock of birds
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Adriatic Flyway Conferences

The Adriatic Flyway Conferences provide an important forum for bird conservationists from all over Europe to exchange ideas and develop joint projects. Until now for conferences were held (in 2009, 2014, 2018 and 2022).

AF4 Declaration (Zadar, 2022)

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AF4-Conference (Zadar, 2022): Book of Abstracts

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ADRIATIC FLYWAY 3 – (Proceedings of the Third Adriatic Flyway Conference, March 2018, Serbia)

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AF3 Declaration_Fruska Gora 2018

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What EuroNatur and its partners are doing to fight illegal bird hunting and what we have been able to achieve together:
  • Keeping an eye on bird populations: Regular population surveys in important resting areas form the basis for being able to take early action to counter negative developments and to monitor the success of conservation measures.
  • Putting a stop to the activities of poachers: At night, our partners are looking out for poachers or bird sound devices. Once they have located them, they call the police. Cooperation between bird conservationists and local law enforcement agencies is bearing fruit. This can be seen from the joint work being done to dismantle illegal hunting lodges in several countries along the Adriatic Flyway. Now, some countries have even set up special police units to combat environmental crime.
  • Creating synergies: We have established the “Balkan Bird Crime Task Force”. Using an online portal, its purpose is to quickly and easily share information and evidence on illegal bird hunting with project partners, and to coordinate appropriate actions.

Partners: BirdLife International, VCF, IUCN-Med, Tour du Valat, BPSSS, HDZZP, Biom, Ornithological Society Naše ptice, CZIP, MSJA, PPNEA, AOS, DOPPS, MES, WWF Spain, WWF Greece, ATN
Funding: MAVA Foundation, Natum Foundation, EuroNatur donors, EuroNatur sponsors

Make the journeys of our migratory birds safe!

Every year around 25 million migratory birds are caught or killed in the Mediterranean area. As a migratory bird sponsor, you can make an important contribution to the survival of our migratory birds.

Mailing "Bird Crime in Albania" (1/21)

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A candy for migratory birds - Lake Ormoz (Magazine 1/21)

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Last Song for Migrating Birds (Interview with Jonathan Franzen, Magazine 3/13)

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Saving the Ulcinj Salina

The Ulcinj Salina in the far south of Montenegro is one of the most important wetlands in the Balkans. Every year in spring and autumn, thousands of waders and waterfowl rest in the shallow salt pans there, recharge their batteries for the exhausting onward flight. The salina is also of great importance as a breeding area, with around 60 species raising their young there.

However, this paradise for birds had been under threat for a long time: the Ulcinj Salina had become the object of speculation for investors looking to make a quick profit! After the saltworks ceased operations in 2013, the area became less attractive for salt-loving bird species as the fresh water was no longer pumped out of the pools. In addition, many pools in the salt pans dried out due to the lack of water management in the hot summers of recent years. In the late summer of 2023, our Montenegrin partners were finally able to carry out restoration work on dams and dykes and repair important pumps. There is at last renewed hope for the Ulcinj Salina.

Welcome to the land of birds

Screenshot: a great white egret wading through the water.
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What EuroNatur and its partners are doing to save the Ulcinj Salina and what we have been able to achieve together:
  • Placing the salina under protection: Thanks to the long-term commitment of EuroNatur and its many partners, the salina was declared a Nature Park in June 2019 and was also designated an internationally important area for wading birds and waterfowl (Ramsar area) in July 2019. Now the groundwork needs to be laid for the revitalisation of the saltworks.
  • Promoting ecotourism: Together with our partner organisations and the local population, we have been developing business ideas for low-impact ecotourism around the Ulcinj Salina. Eligible projects have been selected.

Small grant projects for sustainable regional development

  • Lobbying in Brussels: Montenegro wants to become a member of the European Union. In Brussels, we are arguing that effectively protecting the Ulcinj Salina should remain a condition of the country’s accession. Thanks to our efforts, the protection of the salina was included in the EU’s catalogue of requirements.
  • Supporting sympathetic politicians: Due to international pressure, the Montenegrin government has put the Ulcinj Salina on its agenda. Among other things, it wants to finally settle the disputed question of ownership of the site. We are following this process and, if necessary, we will remind the officials in Podgorica of the need to stick to their promises.
Excavators repair dykes

Excavators in action for species conservation: drone image from the salt works in September 2023

  • Improving living conditions: We are supporting our partners with restoration measures in the salina so that salt-loving flora and fauna can re-establish themselves there. At the same time, we also want to improve the living conditions of local people. We are campaigning for low-level salt production to be resumed and for the people of Ulcinj to have a reliable opportunity for employment. We are also supporting projects which promote sustainable tourism in the region.

Partners: BirdLife International, IUCN-Med, Tour du Valat, CZIP, MSJA
Funding: MAVA Foundation, EuroNatur donors, EuroNatur sponsors

Livanjsko Polje - Landscape of superlatives

blooming carst landscape

Livanjsko Polje in early summer

© Goran Topic

Not far from the Adriatic Sea in the border area of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina a landscape of superlatives lies hidden: The Livanjsko polje (polje meaning a plain or field in the Slavic languages). Livanjsko Polje with a size of over 400 square kilometres (or roughly 155 square miles) is not only the largest wetland in Bosnia and Herzegovina but also the largest regularly flooded surface karst field in the world. The flat plain is located at around 700 m above sea level and surrounded by high mountains.

Over centuries, through complex processes of dissolution, water has eaten into the limestone rock of the Dinaric Karst and formed a huge sponge-like underground cave system. Livanjsko Polje is forms a complex cascade of hydrogeological systems with other karst fields in the surrounding, like Duvanjsko, Glamočko and Kupreško polje. About 140 karst poljes have been recorded in the Dinaric Karst, which extends from Slovenia to Albania, with more than 50 of these karst fields situated in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Karst Poljes - A chance for sustainable development

Screenshot: A river meanders through a valley with meadows and fields.
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Multicoloured carpet of diversity

blooming meadow in Livanjsko Polje
© Davorka Kitonic
Logo Sustainable future for karst poljes

Through a combination of temporary natural flooding and human land-use such as livestock grazing over thousands of years, the plain developed into a veritable carpet of brilliantly coloured but highly sensitive habitats: reed beds, fens and grassland lie close together and contain a great diversity of species. Over 850 vascular plants have been recorded in the polje. In the Northern part of Livanjsko Polje old-growth forests of alder, pedunculate oak and ash is still preserved.

The landscape offers an important resting and breeding sites for numerous birds such as Bittern and Montagu's Harrier.145 bird species have been recorded to breed in the polje. For Cranes and other migratory birds on the Adriatic Flyway Livanjsko polje provides a resting place of inestimable value. It is estimated that more than 100.000 waterbirds rest and feed in the flooded polje during the spring migration period.

What EuroNatur and its partners are doing to protect Livanjsko Polje and what we have been able to achieve together:
  • Protecting karst polje: We have collected necessary data on Livanjsko Polje in order to achieve the protection of the area as a valuable habitat and as an important resting area on the Adriatic migratory route. Livanjsko Polje was officially recognized as an internationally important wetland for wading birds and waterfowl (Ramsar site) in 2008. In 2011 Livanjsko Polje was also designated as an Important Bird Area by BirdLife. Important Bird Areas are home to significant populations of endangered bird species whose occurrence is regionally restricted, or large populations of resting or migrating species. Furthermore, we advocated for the protected area designation at the national level, which is still lacking despite all efforts.
  • Linking agriculture and species conservation: We work with local farmers to expand and improve environmentally and species-friendly land use of meadows and pastures; this includes, for example, reclaiming overgrown areas and restoring near-natural watering holes for livestock.
  • Promoting sustainable regional development: Together with our partners, we provide financial support and advice to local, mostly young, people in the fields of agriculture and tourism - from the establishment of typical guest accommodations and the production of regional food to the offer of canoe safaris. In this way, we also counteract migration in the region.

Partners: Ornithological Society “Naše ptice”, Center for Environment (CZZS)
Funding: DIMFE, MAVA Foundation, EuroNatur donors and sponsors

The white stork: a striking and popular migratory bird

White storks in their nest
© Michael Fantinato/EuroNatur

The white stork is certainly one of the most charismatic bird species in Europe. Although the stork has been a cultural follower for centuries, its whereabouts during the cold season remained a mystery to people for a long time. Now the migratory behaviour of white storks has been thoroughly researched. Storks fly to their winter habitat via two routes. A so-called flyway boundary, which runs through Germany, roughly along the Elbe river, separates the birds which take the eastern migration route from those which take the western one. The western migration route leads to the Iberian Peninsula and some birds then continue on to Morocco, and from there to Central Africa. The eastern route crosses the Balkans, the Bosphorus, the Middle East and on to East, Central and South Africa. On their long migration route, the storks are exposed to numerous dangers such as power lines, lack of food and shooting.

A network for storks

In Europe, the white stork is not threatened by poaching. Here, land use change is the main risk facing the bird. Extensively farmed meadows and pastures are now scarce in Europe. Today, meadows are usually mowed too early in the year and too often. In addition to plants and insects, frogs, lizards, mice and moles are also suffering from the effects of intensive agriculture and, as a result, the stork’s basic food source is disappearing. EuroNatur is seeking to offset the increasing loss of habitat for storks in Europe through the “European Stork Villages Initiative”. Since 1994, the Foundation has been awarding the title of “European Stork Village” to one stork village per country. Candidates include villages or communities where storks live in colonies, and which are particularly committed to stork protection, for example, by extensively managing vast areas of wet grassland. Through the distinction of being a site of special cultural and natural heritage, the villages become internationally well known. This is serving to reinforce successful approaches to stork protection.

Details about the European Stork Villages Network can be found on our ESVN-website.

Picture gallery: White Stork

What EuroNatur and its partners are doing to protect the white stork and what we have been able to achieve together:
  • Protecting stork habitats: We are establishing demonstrative pilot projects that show how species-rich meadows and pastures in Europe can be permanently preserved in order to provide storks with sufficient habitat in the cultivated landscape.
  • Reinforcing positive role models: We are honouring villages or communities that are particularly committed to protecting storks. These villages are seen as national trailblazers in matters of stork conservation. We also organise regular meetings of the Stork Villages, where successful approaches to stork conservation are shared. A key objective in Stork Villages is educational work. We want to spark enthusiasm for storks and draw attention to the threats they face.
  • Preventing electrocution: We want to reduce deaths from electrocution and collision by making existing power lines safe. In close cooperation with network operators, we are working to ensure that, in future, power lines are mainly laid underground.

Storks in distress!

Summers which are too hot and too dry make it difficult for white storks to breed. In times of climate crisis, it is more important than ever to preserve existing wetlands. Please help our storks by making a donation!

Partners: Ciconia Foundation, Gesellschaft Storch Schweiz, European Stork Villages and their national nature conservation partners
Funding: RHW Stiftung,
Pancivis Foundation, Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation, Bristol Stiftung (Switzerland), Manfred-Hermsen-Stiftung for Nature and Environment, Fondation pour la Sauvegarde de la Nature, EuroNatur donors and sponsors

What EuroNatur and its partners are also doing to protect Europe’s birdlife and what we have been able to achieve together:
  • Breeding islands for Dalmatian pelicans: EuroNatur is working to secure the last breeding grounds in Europe for the very rare Dalmatian pelican, and to establish further stable breeding colonies. This is being done, for example, with the help of breeding rafts on which the pelicans can find safe conditions to breed.
  • Returning endangered species to the wild: In Bulgaria, we are involved in projects for lesser kestrels and cinereous vultures. The wide-open spaces of the Sakar Hills and the wild gorges of the Balkan Mountains provide ideal habitats for these two very different bird species. Young birds are being raised in captivity to support low numbers in the kestrel and vulture populations.
  • Preventing poisoning: One of the most common causes of death for birds of prey in the Balkans is poisoned bait. This is actually intended for wolves, jackals and wild dogs but scavengers like vultures and kites often spot the bait first and die a cruel death from poisoning. We are committed to tackling this illegal practice through nationwide controls.

Join in and help us!

Join the many people getting actively involved to save Europe’s migratory birds. We are grateful for any donation or active contribution you can make! In doing so, you are supporting an independent and networked civil society in Europe, which is campaigning vigorously to protect our migratory birds. Please help us any way you can! 

How you can help

Future needs nature. EuroNatur cares for it. Please help anyway you can. With your donation you will make an effective contribution to protect birds in Europe.

Migratory Bird Sponsorship

Bird migration is an incomparable natural spectacle. But illegal hunting and the destruction of resting areas endanger the birds. Help make their journey safer.