Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Use education programmes and local engagement to help reduce persecution or exploitation of species

How is the evidence assessed?
  • Effectiveness
  • Certainty
  • Harms

Study locations

Key messages

  • Five out of six studies from across the world found increases in bird populations or decreases in mortality following education programmes. In all but one case, education was one of several interventions employed.
  • A replicated before-and-after study from Canada also found that there was a significant shift in local peoples’ attitudes to conservation and exploited species following educational programmes.
  • One study from Venezuela found no evidence for decreases in yellow-shouldered parrot Amazona barbadensis poaching following an educational programme in local schools. The authors argue that the benefits would probably be seen later in the project.


About key messages

Key messages provide a descriptive index to studies we have found that test this intervention.

Studies are not directly comparable or of equal value. When making decisions based on this evidence, you should consider factors such as study size, study design, reported metrics and relevance of the study to your situation, rather than simply counting the number of studies that support a particular interpretation.

Supporting evidence from individual studies

  1. A replicated, before-and-after study from 1978-1988 using 141 heads-of-households interviewed before (1981-1982) and after (1988) the wide-scale implementation of the Marine Bird Conservation Project in the coastal North Shore region of Quebec, Canada (Blanchard & Monroe 1990) found that conservation behaviour and seabird populations significantly increased after educational campaigns (including hands-on lessons, field trips, local volunteering, academic materials and creative productions). All seabird populations, especially the alcids (average increase > 50%), significantly increased from 1978-1988 following a decline from 1955-1978. There were significant reductions in respondents who believed that it should be legal to hunt Atlantic puffins Fratercula arctica (54% to 30%), razorbills Alca torda (59% to 38%), and common guillemot Uria aalge (76% to 65%) but no change in perception of common eider Somateria mollissima or herring gull Larus argentatus hunting. The percentage of family members involved in hunting dropped significantly from 76% to 48% and the average number of birds reported as needed per year dropped from 44 to 24.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A ten-year study of a griffon vulture Gyps fulvus reintroduction programme in river gorges in Aveyron, southern France (Sarrazin et al. 1994) found that an education programme run at the same time appeared to reduce persecution of vultures. No shooting or poisoning was recorded in the study area and only a single nest was disturbed by a climber. In addition, farmers were reported to be leaving carcasses in fields more frequently, thus providing a source of food for the vultures. No details are provided on the education programme. The reintroduction programme itself is discussed in ‘Release captive-bred individuals’ and ‘Release birds as adult or subadults, not juveniles’.

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A 1998 literature review of crane Grus spp. conservation (Davis 1998) describes how whooping cranes G. americana continued to decline in the USA following legal protection, until intensive public education programmes. Before education, fewer than half the recorded whooping crane mortalities were due to natural causes, but between 1968 and 1998, only four whooping cranes are known to have been shot. This review is discussed in more detail in ‘Habitat protection’, ‘Use legislative regulation to protect wild populations’, ‘Mark power lines to reduce incidental mortality’, ‘Provide supplementary food to increase adult survival’ and ‘Release captive-bred individuals’.

    Study and other actions tested
  4. A 1998 review of a yellow-shouldered amazon Amazona barbadensis release programme on Margarita Island, Venezuela (Sanz & Grajal 1998), found that the population on the island increased from 750 to approximately 1,900 individuals between 1989 and 1996. The authors argue that the success was dependent to a large degree on a five-year public education and awareness programme, with promotions such as making the parrot the state bird, visiting local schools, involving youth conservation brigades and local news reports. The details of the reintroduction programme are in ‘Release captive-bred individuals’, ‘Artificially incubate and hand-rear birds in captivity’ and ‘Foster eggs or chicks with wild conspecifics’.

    Study and other actions tested
  5. A before-and-after study in western Costa Rica (Vaughan et al. 2005) found an increase in a scarlet macaw Ara macao population from 185-225 individuals in 1990-4 to 225-265 in 1997-2003, following the formation of a local conservation organisation; environmental education programmes; meetings with local stakeholders and several other interventions (‘Promote sustainable alternative livelihoods based on species’, ‘Provide artificial nesting sites’ and ‘Guard nests to increase nest success’). In 1990-4 the population had been showing a 4%/year decline. This study is discussed in more detail in ‘Increase ‘on-the-ground’ protection to reduce unsustainable levels of exploitation’.

    Study and other actions tested
  6. A replicated study from 2000-2003 (part of a longer study from 2000-2009) of 10 monitored yellow-shouldered parrot Amazona barbadensis nests in tropical forest habitat on Margarita Island, Venezuela (Briceño-Linares et al. 2011), found that there was no short-term decrease in poaching rates after raising environmental awareness at schools. Poaching increased from 25% (during 1990-1999) to 100% in 2000-2003 of monitored fledglings. The environmental education programme, focused on older elementary schoolchildren (8-13 years old), was established by providing information, training, resources and support to local elementary school teachers. Schools hosted environmental days and started environmental brigades. At the end of each breeding season, a ‘parrot festival’ was organized by the people of one of the towns. The authors point out that the benefits of this program are likely to be detected at later stages of the project. This study is also discussed in ‘Relocate nestlings to reduce poaching’, ‘Provide artificial nest sites’, ‘Employ locals as biomonitors’ and ‘Foster eggs or chicks with wild conspecifics’.

    Study and other actions tested
Please cite as:

Williams, D.R., Child, M.F., Dicks, L.V., Ockendon, N., Pople, R.G., Showler, D.A., Walsh, J.C., zu Ermgassen, E.K.H.J. & Sutherland, W.J. (2020) Bird Conservation. Pages 137-281 in: W.J. Sutherland, L.V. Dicks, S.O. Petrovan & R.K. Smith (eds) What Works in Conservation 2020. Open Book Publishers, Cambridge, UK.


Where has this evidence come from?

List of journals searched by synopsis

All the journals searched for all synopses

Bird Conservation

This Action forms part of the Action Synopsis:

Bird Conservation
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What Works in Conservation provides expert assessments of the effectiveness of actions, based on summarised evidence, in synopses. Subjects covered so far include amphibians, birds, mammals, forests, peatland and control of freshwater invasive species. More are in progress.

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