A symbol for intact wetlands

<p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p><p> </p>
© Hermann Brehm

The white bird with the striking spoon-shaped bill is almost a symbol for intact wetlands. Thanks to intensive protection measures along the western migration route the population of Spoonbills on the North Sea coast has increased and these large birds have also spread to the islands off Germany and Denmark. The populations in Hungary, Austria nad Croatia however have seen no increase. The reason is that the Spoonbills which breed there use the migration route via the Eastern Adriatic (Adriatic Flyway). And here they are exposed to great dangers.

Bird hunting and habitat destruction undermine spoonbill populations

In the countries along the Eastern Adriatic the Spoonbill is above all threatened by uncontrolled hunting of water birds. But the draining of wetlands is also a great danger. On the coasts of Albania and Montenegro it is the unbridled development of tourism which is swallowing up the last remaining Spoonbill habitats. In Bosnia the remaining Spoonbill resting places in the Neretva Delta are threatened by the planting of mandarins and building of hydroelectric plants in the hinterland. And in Croatia at the end of the 1980s, for a while one of the most important breeding grounds for the Central European Spoonbill and the largest breeding population of this bird disappeared with the draining of the Krapje Dol oxbow lake (Naturpark Lonjsko Polje) in the Sava water meadows.

Where are the main sites of EuroNatur's work for Spoonbill protection in Europe?

One important focus is the Lonjsko Polje Nature Park in the Sava water meadows in Croatia. In 1989 EuroNatur achieved the re-filling and restoration of the Krapje Dol oxbow lake and only two years later the first Spoonbills returned. But the protection of their resting places along the Adriatic migration route is also high on the list for EuroNatur to tackle. (see more in “Scene of the Crime: bird hunting in the Balkans” and “Bird habitats along the Adriatic Flyway”)


What actions are EuroNatur and its partners taking to protect the Spoonbills in the Sava water meadows?

  • Supporting breeding: In 1989 already we secured the success of Spoonbill breeding with the construction of a water conduit.
  • Expanding the Spoonbill habitat: We are securing valuable areas by purchase of land in the buffer zone around the Spoonbill colony in Krapje Dol.
  • Ensuring food supply: Indirectly - by encouraging the extensive grazing of the regularly flooded common-land pasture with old breeds of livestock we are creating the best environment for the spoonbills to find their own food.
  • Ringing young spoonbills: The aim is to research the migration route in more detail and make out possible dangers for the birds on their way to the route.
  • Enabling learning about the environment: A hiking trail, an observation hide and a observation tower enable visitors to watch the breeding spoonbills without disturbing them. In the neighbouring village of Krapje Dol the Nature Park opened its information centre in 2007.


What we have so far acchieved – a selection of important successes

  • The oxbow lake, an old arm of the river Sava, which was dried out in the 1980s has been restored.
  • In the meantime the Spoonbill colony has regained its original size thanks to intensive nature conservation work. Today nearly 50% of Croatia's Spoonbills live on the Krapje Dol oxbow lake.
  • The area in which the Spoonbills breed is protected today and lies at the heart of Lonjsko Polje Nature Park whose designation as a place of nature conservation EuroNatur substantially promoted.

Partners: Lonjsko Polje Nature Park, Croatian Society for Bird and Nature Protection

Sponsoring: Zürich Zoo, EuroNatur donors and sponsors

Read more about the EuroNatur projects in the Sava floodplains and the Bojana-Buna

Back to overview


How you can help


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


Twice a month the latest information about Europe's nature - free of charge and at first hand.

Learn more about our topics

Brown Bear

Seen as a predator with a sweet tooth, a much loved model for soft toys yet outlawed and hunted down as a blood-thirsty beast: the brown bear.


Lithe and skillful, the lynx is a shy, lone hunter. If it is to survive in Europe and if the population is to be undisturbed enough to increase in number, intensive protection measures will be required.


Mankind's relationship to the wolf is ambivalent – on the one hand the animal is admired as a skilled and untiring hunter but also ill-famed as Isengrim the bloodthirsty and persecuted.

Migratory birds

Always to be where living conditions are best: this is a luxury that only those with wings can afford.

Green Belt

Across 12 500 kilometres (over 7700 miles) the Green Belt stretches along the one-time Iron Curtain forming a corridor of habitats for an exceptional diversity of species.

Rivers in Europe

Where in Germany can you still find the original wild rivers? You'll need a magnifying glass. But in the Balkans such utopias still exist on a large scale, even today.

EuroNatur award

Environmental award since 1992.

Nature photo competition

International nature photography competition "Treasures of Nature in Europe". Join us - it's free!