National Action Plan for Bewick’s in Germany

Over the past decades, Germany has become more and more important for the north-western European population of Bewick’s Swans Cygnus columbianus bewickii during their migration and wintering season. Despite the ongoing overall decline of this population, numbers are increasing in Germany and thousands of swans migrate there to spend the winter and to fill their energy stores for migration (Beekman et al. 2019).

Distribution of Bewick’s Swan in Germany in 2016-2020. Maximum flock sizes are
given per grid cell (c. 120 km

With the increasing proportion of the population occurring in Germany comes an equally increasing responsibility which we have as a country for this valuable species. In order to contribute to a long-term recovery of the north-western European population of Bewick’s Swans, the Michael-Otto-Institute at the German Nature and Biodiversity Conversation Union (NABU, BirdLife Germany), together with a group of associated project partners, started a six-year research project in December 2020. This project was established as part of the Federal Biological Diversity Programme.

Following the International Single Species Action Plan for Bewick’s Swan published by AEWA (Nagy et al. 2012), we aim to clarify potential threats, habitat requirements, and necessary conservation measures in our country. To achieve this, we have set ourselves the following goals:

  • Studying the spatiotemporal habitat use and the connectivity between night roosts and foraging sites by equipping swans with GPS trackers
  • Evaluating conflicts with human activity (e.g. collisions with wind turbines/power lines and hunting) and developing appropriate solutions
  • Examining (potential) causes of mortality
  • Investigating possibilities to direct Bewick’s Swans to more protected and optimised habitats by creating new roosting waters at suitable locations
  • Improving the monitoring programme of Bewick’s Swans in northern Germany by establishing an online census-area exchange for volunteers
  • Raising public awareness through social media appearance, information boards at night roosts, brochures and a website with a map to follow our tracked swans
  • Developing a National Action Plan for Bewick’s Swans in Germany

To hear about progress with the National Action Plan, read more here.