In Denmark, voluntary ‘Caretaker’ groups have been instrumental in the designation of SPAs

© Lise Nielsen

The Danish IBA Caretaker Project has built a locally-based network of skilled observers to help conserve the country’s Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Information from the Caretaker network has been key to designating many of these sites as Special Protected Areas (SPAs) under the European Union Birds Directive.

Across Europe, many BirdLife Partners have established voluntary ‘Caretaker’ groups to help manage, monitor and protect Important Bird Areas (IBAs). Dansk Ornitologisk Forening (DOF—BirdLife in Denmark) began to establish such groups at Danish IBAs in 2002. Today, the Caretakers network—with the support of the Aage V. Jensen Charity Foundation—has grown to encompass 900 volunteers organised into 151 local groups and 46 species groups working across the country’s 128 IBAs as well as other sites of local ornithological importance. IBA Caretakers themselves are not responsible for carrying out conservation actions; this is the responsibility of the site manager, such as the local forestry service or farmer. However, the information that the Caretakers provide through DOF feeds into the management of the site and often leads to changes in the way sites are managed.

The IBA Caretaker project constitutes about one-third of the budget DOF spends on conservation. In return, the Caretakers are DOF’s most important resource and source of local knowledge. They are the eyes, ears and voice of DOF at the local level for each IBA. Moreover, they enable DOF to be instantly aware in case of a threat or change arising at a site. The Caretakers themselves have recruited hundreds of new volunteers to the groups. Although DOF is not the largest membership-based NGO in Denmark, it has the largest share of active volunteers, with 7.5% of its 16,000 members regularly volunteering.

Each Caretaker group has a clear task and focus. This usually involves the trigger bird species for which their IBA has been designated, and each group decides within itself and in consultation with DOF what monitoring strategy to follow, what types of data to collect, and how to report them. The main Internet tool used to monitor birds is DOFbasen, an online database of bird observations covering the entire country. The Caretaker network is one of the key sources and users of DOFbasen data. Each group has its own website, based on a DOF template, for which the members are entirely responsible. This website is linked to DOFbasen to allow exchange of data. DOFbasen’s reporting tools also offer instant feedback to the users, who can easily see the contribution their observations are making to the ‘big picture’ of conserving birds in Denmark and beyond.

Information from DOFbasen has been key in the designation of sites as Special Protected Areas (SPAs)—a network of sites that provide legal protection to Europe’s most important habitats. 113 of the 128 IBAs in the country have been designated as SPAs, which are integrated into the EU’s network of protected areas, Natura 2000. The Institute for Bioscience, the official body responsible for monitoring SPAs in Denmark, uses data from DOFbasen to fulfil its EU reporting requirements.


This case study is taken from ‘Empowering the Grassroots—BirdLife, Participation, and Local Communities’. To learn more about this publication and download the report in full click here.

Compiled: 2011    Copyright: 2011   

Recommended Citation:
BirdLife International (2011) In Denmark, voluntary ‘Caretaker’ groups have been instrumental in the designation of SPAs. Downloaded from on 25/06/2022