The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) and its importance in highlighting critical conservation sites, such as Candaba Marsh

The Asian Waterbird Census (AWC) began in 1987 and forms part of the global wetland bird monitoring scheme the International Waterbird Census (IWC) which is coordinated by Wetlands International. Every January thousands of volunteers count wetland birds across the world. These annual counts are vital as they give an indication of the population status and trends of the world’s wetlands birds.

Volunteers and DENR staff

The AWC relies heavily on volunteers; here members of The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP) and Department of the Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) staff are taking part in the annual count. Photo: Irene Dy, e-BON.

Regular documents such as “Waterbird Population Estimates” (Wetlands International, 2012) are produced by Wetlands International and a database of IWC population estimates is now available based on these counts:

Irene Dy

AWC at Candaba Swamp: Black-winged Stilt Himantopus himantopus and various duck species. Photo: Irene Dy, e-BON.

In the Philippines, the AWC is coordinated by Carlo Custodio and many of the counts are carried out by members The Wild Bird Club of the Philippines (WBCP –, along with many other volunteers. There is a lot of work involved in the census as many volunteers will survey many different wetland sites; you can get an insight into what’s involved through this WBCP account of a survey at Candaba Marsh in 2013 Currently, there are over 50 sites surveyed annually in the Philippines. These annual counts are crucial for wetland bird conservation. However, at key wetland sites, such as Candaba Swamp, we need established and regular biodiversity surveys. We are hoping to secure funds to shortly begin a regular monitoring programme within the Candaba Marsh area.

Figure.1 Map to show the AWC sites that record Philippine Duck present

map of philippinesThis map shows the sites surveyed by the AWC where a key wetland species, Philippine Duck Anas luzonica, were recorded. The size of the red dots gives an indication of the relative population size recorded there.

Candaba Swamp is one of the sites that have been surveyed annually. We can use the Philippine Duck recordings data to see how the counts have changed over the time period. During the 2013 census, 3369 Philippine Duck were recorded and the marsh is one of the key sites for this species. This site is vital to secure the Philippine Duck species. Recently the critically endangered Baer’s Pochard Aythya baeri was observed at the site. However, the site is under serious threat of imminent land conversion, and without sufficient and urgent conservation action the site will be lost.

Irene Dy-2013

Candaba Marsh is currently listed as an IBA, but we are expecting the site to be up listed to an IBA in Danger due to its imminent danger of land conversion from wetland to rice fields. Photo: Irene Dy, e-BON.


Wetlands International, 2012. Waterbird Population Estimates, Fifth Edition. Summary ReportWetlands International, Wageningen, The Netherlands



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