International Waterbird Census (IWC)


What is the International Waterbird Census (IWC) Scheme?

The IWC (the International Waterbird Census) Scheme is a global and annual census of waterbirds which was established in 1967 by Wetlands International in Europe and a few Asian and African countries. Its aim is to collect data on millions of waterbirds around the world. IWC takes place in more than 100 countries and is scheduled to occur in mid-January of each year.

In 2003, first steps were taken towards establishing the IWC program in Armenia. Since then the program has continued to the present with considerable fluctuation in coverage. Sites covered by this census in Armenia include the three most important wetlands of Armash Fishery, Metsamor River system and Lake Sevan.

In the Caucasus region this census is coordinated by the Russian Program of Wetlands International. The Armenian results of the IWC counts are submitted each year to the Wetlands International database.


What are waterbirds?

Waterbirds are defined as “species of birds that are ecologically dependent on wetlands”. This is the definition used by the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. For the purposes of the International Waterbird Census, all species in the families of Divers/Loons, Grebes, Pelicans, Cormorants, Herons, Storks, Ibises, Flamingos, Ducks, Geese and Swans, Cranes, Rails, Coots, Oystercatchers, Stilts and Avocets, Thick-knees, Pratincoles, Plovers, Sandpipers, Snipes, Phalaropes, Gulls and Terns are considered by Wetlands International to be waterbirds.

Why count waterbirds?

The International Waterbird Census uses information collected by four continental-scale censuses over the long term to provide crucial information which underpins conservation of waterbirds and their wetland habitats. The aims of the census are:

• To monitor the numerical size of waterbird populations;

• To describe changes in numbers and distribution of these populations;

• To identify wetlands of international importance for waterbirds at all seasons;

• To provide information to assist protection and management of waterbird populations through international conventions, national legislation and other mean


Why the IWC census is important?

The IWC is a valuable source of information. It is not just about estimating the size of waterbird populations. The census’s standardized method of collecting, checking, and importing of national and regional waterbird census data makes it easy to monitor changes in waterbird numbers and distribution, to improve knowledge of poorly known waterbird species and wetland sites, and to identify and monitor sites that qualify as Wetlands of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands. It provides information on the conservation status of waterbird species and helps to increase awareness of the importance of waterbirds and their wetland habitats at local, national and international level.

The IWC scheme also contributed to activities of other leading conservation programs, particularly the Red Data Book of IUCN, and Birdlife International’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBA) program, as well as to the development of Waterbird Species Action Plans.




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