We and Wadden Birds

The aim of the “We & Wadden Bird monitor” is to gain insights into the effectiveness of diverse activities carried out by nine nature organizations as part of the We & Wadden Birds project. This monitor seeks to understand awareness and support for bird protection among both residents and visitors. Additionally, it explores the perspectives of entrepreneurs and the role they can play in shaping the experience, communication, and education related to this theme.


With the multi-year collaborative initiative “We & Wadden Birds,’ nine organizations join forces to restore healthy bird populations in the Wadden Sea area. These organizations are: Het Groninger Landschap, It Fryske Gea, Landschap Noord-Holland, Natuurmonumenten, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen, Staatsbosbeheer, The Fieldwork Company, Waddenvereniging, and Vogelbescherming Nederland.

The We & Wadden Birds project, spanning from 2019 to 2026 focuses on three main aspects:

  • Implementation for physical measures by the construction and development of new locations both inside and outside dikes for shorebirds, meadow birds, and dune birds. This may also include the accelerated restoration of existing locations.
  • Increasing tranquility, awareness, and support through guidance and hospitality of residents and visitors on tidal flats, beaches, and sandbanks. Additionally, efforts are made to foster support and awareness throughout the Wadden Sea area through communication and educational initiatives.
  • Acquiring and exchanging knowledge by measuring the effectiveness of implemented measures and drawing insights from practical experiences.

ETFI is responsible for measuring the impacts of measures aimed at creating and enhancing awareness and support. The knowledge gained through these assessments is then shared with project partners.

Problem solution

The experiential activities in the Wadden Sea area is incredibly diverse. Local entrepreneurs, residents, and representatives from nature organizations join forces, unleashing a true wave of creativity to present the sometimes challenging Wadden nature in an engaging manner to visitors. Despite the long tradition of organizing these experiences, it is noticeable that the impact on participants is rarely measured.

The We & Wadden Bird Monitor contributes to an insightful examination of which (experiential) activities and physical measures have the most significant impact on the knowledge, attitudes, and behavior of recreationalists in the Wadden Sea area. The results lead to strategies aimed at enriching bird experiences for beachgoers, nature enthusiasts, and bird experts, all while minimizing disturbance to the birds.

The project team consists of:

We first compiled existing knowledge about the relationship between birds, recreation, and tourism (avitourism). Then we conducted a stakeholder analysis and held interviews with key stakeholders. Based on this, and the experience of the researchers and project partners, we established the methodology for the impact measurement (or monitoring).

The core of the monitor is gaining insight into the three key aspects: awareness, experience, and protection of birds in the Wadden Sea area. To achieve this, we assess expectations, perceptions, attitudes, behavior, and support regarding Wadden Sea birds and the intended projects of “We & Wadden Birds”. For example, we ask about participation in bird observation, knowledge about birds, and awareness of bird disturbance resulting from recreational activities. The impact measurement is conducted at both the beginning and end of the project.

In between those periods, we conduct qualitative research at specific locations of the “We and Wadden Birds” project. Together with the clients, we identify sites where recent measures have been implemented.

In the summer of 2022, the project team examined the effectiveness of the tide indicator in Westhoek. In the summer and fall of 2023, research was conducted on the effectiveness of measures in Normerven and Westerplas. For the Amstelmeer, a baseline measurement was conducted to examine the behaviors of water recreationists in an area where a future inland high-water refuge and breeding island will be realized.


The impact measurement conducted in 2021 involved 1,332 residents and 3,152 visitors across the entire Wadden Sea region. It shows that bird watching a popular activity is among both residents and visitors, with a quarter of the visitors and a third of the residents stating that they observe birds in the Wadden Sea area. Despite this, residents and visitors, on average, rate their own knowledge of birds as insufficient.

There is a strong support for bird protection measures among both residents and visitors. Additionally, residents and visitors are highly willing to comply with such measures. However, they do observe significant bird disturbance caused by others. Furthermore, there is a tendency to somewhat underestimate the impact of one’s own recreational activities on bird disturbance. Many visitors and residents express a desire for more information on how to be more considerate of birds. They also believe that more efforts should be made in terms of nature education in schools regarding the unique Wadden Sea nature. Additionally, there is a perception that tourist operators can do more to educate their guests about nature and bird protection. 

This research project runs from January 2020 till December 2026

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