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African – Eurasian Shorebird Survey (AESS)

Identifying sites of regional and international importance either during the migration or the breeding season is vital for effective conservation of shorebirds. With the intensified changes in our climate, key habitats of yesterday might lose its importance tomorrow. Bird populations must adapt to these changes. The conservationists have to ensure that a network of suitable habitats is always available for both breeding and migrating shorebirds. Furthermore, identifying both negative and positive factors on species and habitat level is a high priority, and they remain a fundamental part of shorebird conservation.

A network of voluntary observers of the African – Eurasian Shorebird Survey provides valuable information about the status of each wetland and conducts a regular and structured survey. The number of shorebird species is recorded on each involved site during each visit. Counts are coordinated and synchronised to ensure compatibility and regularity. A solid monitoring system ensures the continuous growth of this voluntary network for many years to come.

Upcoming AESS Survey Dates

17–20 September 2021


The African – Eurasian Shorebird Survey (AESS) aims

  • to monitor changes in the size and distribution of shorebird populations; 

  • to support shorebird conservation with regular and structured shorebird counts, on as many coastal and inland locations as possible, in the African and Eurasian region;

  • to identify key shorebird sites;

  • to take actions for protecting important shorebird sites;

  • to partner with local NGOs for more effective shorebird conservation;

  • and to pledge more citizen-scientists for more widespread shorebird conservation.

Geographic scope


The covered geographic area consists 5 of the 8 main international flyways of the world, including the East Atlantic, the Black Sea–Mediterranean, the West Asian–East African, the Central Asian and the East Asian–Australasian Flyways.

The African – Eurasian Shorebird Survey (ESS) covers the whole of Europe including the Azores, Canary Islands, Iceland and Svalbard, the entire African continent with Madagascar and the Indian Ocean islands (Comoros, Seychelles, Mauritius, Réunion etc.) the Middle East. It also includes Asia with Sri Lanka, Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines and the Indonesian islands excluding Papua New Guinea.


This map was created by Jon Villasper 


Shorebirds don't only occur on shores and nutrient-rich beaches or mudflats. Quite a few shorebird species prefer a different type of inland wetlands (e.g. Wood Sandpiper). Apart from the intertidal and coastal habitats, the AESS also focuses on wetlands like wet salt-marshes, wet-grasslands and meadows, ricefields, mangroves, salt-pans, fishponds, sewage ponds, gravel pits, rivers, swamps or natron lakes.

The condition of the habitats of each counting location will annually be monitored highlighting the changes and the proposed actions to be taken to reverse the changes if negative.


Nagyszik soda pan, Balmazújváros, Hungary © Zoltán Ecsedi

Target species

All over the world, there are different understanding of placing species under the term 'shorebirds'. In the classic nomenclature, shorebirds or waders belong to the order Charadriiformes. Neither Herons and Storks nor Gulls and Terns are not considered to be shorebirds in conservative terms. For the AESS program, the following families are considered to be shorebirds (despite a lot of them do not live near shores or coastal habitats):

Buttonquails, Stone-curlews & Thick-knees, Oystercatchers, Ibisbill, Stilts & Avocets, Plovers (including Golden Plovers, Lapwings, Plovers, Dotterels and Egyptian Plover), Greater Painted-snipe, Jacanas, Sandpipers (including CurlewsWhimbrels, Godwits, Ruddy Turnstone, Calidris Sandpipers and Dowitchers) & Snipes (including Woodcocks, Actitis Sandpipers, Terek Sandpiper, PhalaropesTringa Sandpipers and Tattlers), Crab-plover and Coursers & Pratincoles.

References: Gill F, D Donsker & P Rasmussen (Eds). 2020. IOC World Bird List (v10.2). doi: 10.14344/IOC.ML.10.2. https://www.worldbirdnames.org


Greater Sandplover (Charadrius leschenaultii), Chennai, India © Ganesh Jayaraman/birdsforlife

Counting Frequency and Dates


All counts fall onto the middle weekend of the month (ideally Saturday) with a few exceptions. During the peak of the migration, the counts are biweekly. Population trends can be drawn only if data collection is methodological and keeps the designed frequency. It's highly recommended to have a substitute surveyor in case personal involvement is not possible. Click on the Google Calendar icon to subscribe to save all counting dates for 2021.

2021 Dates

15–18 January 2021
12–15 February 2021
12–15 March 2021
9–12 April 2021
23–26 April 2021
21–24 May 2021
11–14 June 2021
16–19 July 2021
20–23 August 2021
3–6 September 2021
17–20 September 2021
8–11 October 2021

5–8 November 2021
17–20 December 2021

2022 Dates

13–16 May 2022
17–20 June 2022
15–18 July 2022
12–15 August 2022
9–12 September 2022
7–10 October 2022
11–14 November 2022
9–12 December 2022
21–24 January 2022
18–21 February 2022
18–21 March 2022
15–18 April 2022

Data entry


Option 1

The AESS uses eBird as the primary data submission platform. eBird is one of the best worldwide resources for avian data recording. Its ease of use makes it an obvious choice. Nevertheless, eBird saves us from programming a very expensive database. All is required is a username and a password. If we developed a different database, a new registration process would have been necessary anyway. It is recommended to download the eBird mobile app what is available both for iOS and Android. Alternatively, data entry is also possible via the eBird data submission online portal.


Option 2

The AESS made it possible to use the traditional Microsoft Excel-based data forms as well. It's a simple form but it is personalised and shared individually with those request it.

Option 3

The AESS is partnering with different national bird-record databases where data fetching is easily manageable. Downloaded data from the survey weekends will be imported to our database.


In either case, site registration is always required as that is our key source for communication with surveyors.

Data visibility


All shorebird data entered to eBird, will be transformed into infographics and charts to give site members/surveyors better visibility of the progress of the program. Basic phenological and abundance charts, habitat preference charts will also be added after the counting days.​ At the end of the calendar year, threats will be listed for each site and the direction of changes will be displayed in informative infographics. Survey reports will regularly be published online and in prints when funding is available.


5TAR Surveyor Rewards

2 Stars

Collect 2 points every time you complete a survey weekend with all your survey sites. Never miss a survey weekend and your chances are higher. If you organise a substitution to cover the site while you are absent, you still get the points.

Maximum stars per survey year:



Complete checklist

1 Star

Collect 1 point if your checklist contains all bird species in your survey site. The more you contribute to ornithology in general, the higher cahances you have to earn stars.

Maximum stars per survey year:




1 Star

Take a lead by recruiting more surveyors for the AESS program. The more surveyors we have the better coverage we get. This is vital for network-based citizen-science programs. Bring in 1 surveyor and earn 1 star, 2 or more and earn 3 stars.

Maximum stars per survey year:



What are those stars for?

The rewards will be calculated at the end of the season and the maximum star holders* (Maximum stars to collect: 52) will be entered into a prize draw. If a surveyor joins the program later in the year, the 12 months period will be calculated from the survey weekend she/he joined. She/he will be entered to the following prize draw. We do the prize draw once a year in the first quarter of the year. The winners get a gift pack with interesting and valuable items.

*Anyone earned 45 stars or above (32 stars out of 45 has to come from the 'Loyalty' criteria) will be entered in the prize draw.