Birds as environmental indicators

The Dokka Delta Wetlands Centre offers an educational course with the theme ‘birds as environmental indicators’. The course is focused on which methods we can use to register changes in nature. The course is designed for schoolchildren between the ages of ten and thirteen years of age, but can be adjusted to suit other age groups. The teaching usually takes place in the Dokka Delta, but parts or even the whole course can be delivered in other locations.

The objective of the course is to make the students aware of changes in nature, and for the students to gain an understanding of the methods that can be used to register these changes. The students are also taught to use these methods to assess whether the changes detected in the environment are sustainable or not. The course stimulates the students to reflect over the observed changes in nature, and what these can tells us about the state of nature.

Birds are used as environmental indicators because the relationships between the environment and birdlife are easy to observe.

- Birds respond to a range of different threats.

- Birds are widespread in all habitats.

- There exists a wealth of knowledge about species, ecology, and methods to measure bird populations.

- Birds are an animal group that many people are interested in.

- Specific bird species are closely connected to their environments.


The three observation methods that the students gain experience in:


1) Observation of birds in the Dokka Delta nature reserve from one of our view points. This method involved registering the species found and the number of individuals of each species detected. By surveying like this in the same area and date on an annual basis we are able to document any changes to the bird life. The students are taught how to use binoculars, telescopes and bird guide books.


2) Birdringing at a site within the Dokka Delta nature reserve. Standardised birdringing can reveal trends indicating changes in nature. The course provides an insight into bird ringing as a method to collect scientific data. Furthermore, the students get to experience close contact with the birds, something which many of the students find fascinating.


3) Registering the breeding results in a bird-box trail. We can use annual monitoring of a number of bird-boxes to detect changes in populations of cavity-nesting birds. The students get the opportunity to check the bird-boxes and learn how to identify which species has been nesting in the box.


In preparation for the teaching sessions we send the schools a PowerPoint presentation about the course. This prepares the students for the practical activities they will undertake using these three methods and encourages them to think about the concept of ‘sustainable development’. After the course we send the schools a simple overview of the results from the three monitoring methods. 


A goldcrest caught during one of our bird ringing sessions. 


Bird box with blue tit in the Dokka Delta.