Background Information


Information from the AWC contributes to the identification and monitoring of wetlands of international and national importance. It also assists decision-makers in designating wetlands to the Convention on Wetlands (Ramsar, Iran 1971), protecting threatened species, improving knowledge of little-known waterbird species and assessing values of wetlands. The data feeds into an international programme to maintain an overview of the population size, status and trends of waterbirds.

The AWC has also helped increase local awareness and participation in the conservation of waterbirds and their wetland habitats. If you would like to join the thousands of volunteers contributing to the AWC, please contact the National Coordinator of your country for more information.


This activity takes place during the second and third week of january every year. The census is primarily carried out by national networks of volunteers from all walks of life and partner organisations. At a national level, the census is coordinated by one National Coordinator, sometimes assisted by Regional Coordinators.  The AWC  National Coordinator network is facilitated by Wetlands International South Asia office.

The waterbird count data and site information are recorded on standardised census forms. A  single count is made at each each site. The information is submitted to the National Coordinators and Regional Coordinators. After collation and validation, this data is forwarded to Wetlands International South Asia office to be collated for the the International Waterbird Census database. These counts then contribute to the international objectives outlined above. The AWC can also provide a framework for National Coordinators to prepare analyses and reports for their national purposes.

Species & Site Coverage

Wetland sites covered by the AWC include all types of natural and man-made wetlands, including: rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds, freshwater swamps, mangroves, mudflats, coral reefs, rice fields and sewage farms that are covered by the Ramsar Convention.

The species counted include all types of waterbirds regularly encountered at wetlands, including: grebes, cormorants, pelicans, herons, egrets, storks, ibises, spoonbills, flamingos, ducks, geese, swans, cranes, rails, jacanas, shorebirds, gulls, terns and skimmers. In addition raptors, kingfishers and other birds largely dependent on food resources in these habitats are covered.


Since its establishment in 1987, the AWC has been undertaken at more than 6,100 sites in 27 countries with the active participation of thousands of volunteers. The information collected by these volunteers is available to a wide range of government agencies and non-government organisations and contributes to conservation activities from the local to global level, including:

  • raising awareness of waterbirds and waterbird conservation issues;
  • supporting local conservation activities at wetlands;
  • the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, in identifying and monitoring wetlands of international importanc;
  • the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), by monitoring the status of migratory waterbirds and their habitats;
  • the Convention on Biological Diversity's (CBD) goal in conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity;
  • implementation of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership Initiative (EAAFP) and Central Asian Flyway Action Plan through monitoring important and Flyway Network sites;
  • BirdLife International's Important Bird Area (IBA) Programme;
  • IUCN/BirdLife International's Global Species Programme (Red List);
  • Wetlands International's Waterbird Population Estimates programme.

 AWC counts have also contributed to many Wetlands International's publications, including:

The use of AWC data for scientific research is also encouraged. Researchers can ask for AWC data by completing and returning this form. Please remember that Wetlands International does not own the data held in the IWC database, so we cannot provide sub-national level data for publication without the National Coordinator's permission.

Contact details

For more information on the

AWC, please email