Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Release captive-bred individuals into the wild to restore or augment wild populations of waders

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

Study locations

Key messages

A review of black stilt Himantopus novaezelandiae releases in New Zealand found that birds had low survival (13–20%) and many moved away from their release sites so, in consequence, that they could not be managed and were unlikely to interact with stilt populations in the wild.


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 review of critically endangered black stilt (kaki) Himantopus novaezelandiae releases in riverine habitats in South Island, New Zealand, between 1993 and 2005 (van Heezik et al. 2009) found that 13-20% of 464 birds released were alive two years after release. However, 32% of birds that reached breeding age did not remain at their release site and 15% moved to an area where they could no longer be managed and were unlikely to reproduce successfully. The authors argue that this second category of birds is “effectively dead” as they no longer contribute to the wild population. Birds were released into populations that needed supplementation; therefore movements away from the release site could also be detrimental. Eggs were taken from wild and captive-bred birds and artificially incubated. Birds were not held at the release site before release, but food was provided at release site for between six weeks and two months. This study is also discussed in ‘Release birds as adults or sub-adults, not juveniles’ and ‘Release birds in groups’.

    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

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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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