'Excellent' rating for NIOO's Avian Migration Centre


'Excellent' rating for NIOO's Avian Migration Centre

Press release

NIOO-KNAW's Centre for Avian Migration and Demography has ringed birds and studied their migration patterns for over a century. In its first-ever peer review, the Centre has been rated 'excellent'. The committee of independent reviewers stresses the importance of the Avian Migration Centre's research and its unique database, compiled largely from efforts by hundreds of volunteers.

The Centre's long history and the involvement of these volunteers give it a unique position within the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW).

Welcome recognition
The head of the Avian Migration Centre, Henk van der Jeugd, welcomes the committee's recognition.

"The experts are right to suggest that long-term funding for the Centre is vital. At the moment, we don't receive any funding from the ministry of Economic Affairs, even though the ministry has charged us with granting licences to bird ringers. That's an official task, but we've never been compensated for it."

According to Van der Jeugd, monitoring birds tends to be seen as expensive and unnecessary, "until an urgent issue such as climate change comes along and reveals the true importance of the data."

Early wood pigeons
How important the Centre's work can be in this respect, was demonstrated recently when two of its ringers discovered a nest of wood pigeons.

In the Centre's 103-year history, its volunteers have ringed 11 million birds but there have been only four recorded instances of a nest of wood pigeons this early in the year.

The contrast with last year's extremely cold spring couldn't be greater: the Centre's data shows that in 2013, birds began nesting later than usual.

The rapid alternation of extremely cold and unusually mild spring weather could offer new insights into the adaptability of birds to climate change.

Thanks to its unique database, the Centre for Avian Migration and Demography can trace the effects of climate change on the nesting period of birds and their survival rate over a much longer period.

Other activities
Ringing birds and storing data is one of the cornerstones of what the Centre does. Another cornerstone is the analysis of bird migration patterns, using advanced tracking technology ('bird GPS').

Data from the Centre's database has been increasingly in demand, in both fundamental and applied research in the field of nature conservation.

Currently, there are 530 certified bird ringers. Most of them work on a volunteer basis, under supervision from the Centre for Avian Migration and Demography.

More information via www.vogeltrekstation.nl (in Dutch).


The NIOO is one of the largest research institutes of the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences (KNAW), with more than 200 employees and students. It is specialised in fundamental and strategic ecological research. As of early 2011, the NIOO is based in a sustainably-built research laboratory in Wageningen, the Netherlands.

More information:

  • Carel Jansen, public information officer NIOO-KNAW, tel. +31 (0)6-12445843/(0)317-473590, c.jansen@nioo.knaw.nl
  • Dr. Henk van der Jeugd, head of the Centre for Avian Migration and Demography, tel. 06 27 32 88 03, h.vanderJeugd@nioo.knaw.nl