Action Synopsis: Bird Conservation About Actions

Release birds in ‘coveys’

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

Study locations

Key messages

  • A replicated study in Saudi Arabia found that houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii survival was low when chicks were released in coveys with flightless females.
  • A review of cackling goose Branta hutchinsii conservation and a replicated study in England found that geese and grey partridge Perdix perdix releases were more  successful for birds released in coveys than for young birds released on their own or adults released in pairs.


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 study reviewing a houbara bustard Chlamydotis undulata macqueenii release programme in central Saudi Arabia between 1991 and 1993 (Jaime et al. 1996) found that releasing coveys of chicks into a large (4 km2) enclosure designed to exclude mammalian predators had low levels of success. Eight coveys with a total of 15 chicks were released along with eight females (rendered flightless). Of these only five birds integrated into wild flocks with five leaving the enclosure and being predated by mammalian predators; two were killed inside the enclosure and three died of disease. Other release techniques and descriptions of the captive-breeding programme are discussed in ‘Use captive breeding to increase or maintain populations’, ‘Use artificial insemination in captive breeding’, ‘Release captive-bred individuals’, ‘Use holding pens at site of release’ and ‘Use holding pens at site of release and clip birds’ wings’.

    Study and other actions tested
  2. A before-and-after study from the Aleutian Islands, Alaska, USA on the cackling goose Branta hutchinsii recovery programme (USFWS 2001) found that releasing geese in family groups proved a better strategy than releasing young geese (captive or wild, see ‘Release birds as adults or sub-adults, not juveniles’). The authors note that the release of captive-bred geese was not very successful overall. This study also investigates the effect of Arctic fox Alopex lugopus control on breeding islands (see ‘Predator control on islands’).

    Study and other actions tested
  3. A replicated study on four farms in Gloucestershire and Oxfordshire, England, in 2007 (Rantanen et al. 2010) found that grey partridge Perdix perdix released in coveys in autumn had significantly higher survival (78% survival of 92 monitored birds over 13 days) than adult birds released in pairs in spring (42% survival for 70 birds). The authors suggest that the differences were due to different habitat use: spring-released birds spent a lot of time in fields and field margins, whilst autumn birds spent more time in game cover crops. Use of field margins was negatively associated with survival, whilst use of crops was positively associated.

    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
What Works 2021 cover

What Works in Conservation

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.

More about What Works in Conservation

Download free PDF or purchase
The Conservation Evidence Journal

The Conservation Evidence Journal

An online, free to publish in, open-access journal publishing results from research and projects that test the effectiveness of conservation actions.

Read the latest volume: Volume 21

Go to the CE Journal

Discover more on our blog

Our blog contains the latest news and updates from the Conservation Evidence team, the Conservation Evidence Journal, and our global partners in evidence-based conservation.

Who uses Conservation Evidence?

Meet some of the evidence champions

Endangered Landscape ProgrammeRed List Champion - Arc Kent Wildlife Trust The Rufford Foundation Save the Frogs - Ghana Mauritian Wildlife Supporting Conservation Leaders
Sustainability Dashboard National Biodiversity Network Frog Life The international journey of Conservation - Oryx Cool Farm Alliance UNEP AWFA Bat Conservation InternationalPeople trust for endangered species Vincet Wildlife Trust