Our research projects are distributed among diverse topics in which we have developed over years of extensive experience and expertise. 

Farmland birds

Approximately 70% of the Netherlands is management for agricultural use. Sovon is motivated to investigate the causes of the widespread population decline present in farmland bird species in the Netherlands, with the aim find potential conservation methods to reverse the negative trend. Particular attention has been given to the factors effecting reproduction; such as predation, availability of food resources, and efficiency of agricultural nature management.

Meadow birds

For the last 40 years, meadow birds have exhibited a dramatic population decline. Unfortunately, this decrease in meadow bird number has accelerated in the last few decades. Between 1990 and 2000, there has been a yearly reduction of more then 1% of the meadow birds in agricultural areas. Since 2000, the yearly decline has swelled to 5%.

Arable farmland birds

In addition, the birds nesting on the arable farmland are in trouble; some breeding species such as the Ortolan bunting are extinct, while others like the Corn bunting hang on by a thread, and there is concern for future of the Partridge and the Skylark.

Climate change

The climate in the Netherlands is changing and these fluctuations will continue to develop for the following decades; we are experiencing warmer winters and extreme weather events with increasing frequency. These changes in weather patterns will, of course, have large effect on our birds.  For example, problems could arise from a widening gap between the timing of breeding and the peak of available food. Sovon contributes to the research on climate change by collaborating with research institutes to collect and analyze data on; the population trends, distribution, reproduction, and phenology of bird species. Read more about climate change

Exotic species

Exotic species are species that do not naturally occur in the Netherlands, but were introduced by people. Generally, birds escape or are released from private aviaries or zoos.  Most of species that escape do not survive, but some thrive such as; the Canadian goose, the Egyptian goose, and the Rose-ringed parakeet. Species which quickly establish and reproduce are called invasive species.

Some exotic species wreak havoc and have negative influences on natural resources, public health, and areas of economic importance. There are different bottlenecks in the methods of prevention and population control, which is why regulating exotic species is so difficult.

Expertise Centrum Exoten (NEC-E)
Sovon is a partner in The Netherland’s Expertise Centre for Exotics (NEC-E) which gathers information about exotic species. The objective is to advise policymakers and nature managers on the methods for controlling populations. Moreover, there is attention given to species-specific management and a systematic approach to prevent invasions in nature areas. 

In collaboration with the NEC-E, Sovon develops research-based evidence for:

  • Risk analysis and predictions of potential effects
  • Advise for the government and nature managers on efficient methods for management
  • Exotic species detection and recording their population development.


The importance of geese population research is a result of the problems that have arisen due to the population explosion. Sovon believes that the facts and knowledge should form the basis of the discussions and policymaking.

Sovon is developing an answer to the management of geese in the Netherlands with a nationwide census and research projects designed to examine the heart of the problem.

Shore birds

The Wadden Sea and Delta are one of the most important wetlands in Europe. They are a crucial link for many migratory water birds flying the East Atlantic migration route, which stretches from the Northeastern Canada and Central Siberia to Southern Africa.   

Furthermore, these areas are important refuges for the bird species that breed in our dune and shore habitats, many of which are on the Red List.

Even though the Wadden Sea and Delta area are protected under the European Union Bird’s Directive, there are developments that (could) have negative effects on birds. It is important to keep an eye on these processes with bird censuses as well as research.

Population monitoring

The population dynamics of most bird species within the Netherlands are well monitored. To explain the change in population number over time observations on breeding success, survival, migration and immigration is essential.  Such data is being gathered in the following projects; Mapping nests project, Constant Effort Site (CES) project and many others.

By analyzing the data in Integrated Population Models, key factors can be identified which explain the changes in observed bird counts.

In the future, Sovon will utilize this knowledge in collaboration with the Vogeltrekstation and various other research institutes and universities. Read more about monitoring populations.

Bird atlas

For the last three years, hundreds of birders crossed the Netherlands to count birds. The regional bird counts have provided a wealth of data. The data collected is an indispensable source of information for the government and the site managers. Read more about the Bird Atlas

Nesting activity

By mapping the success of nests we are collecting important information on the breeding success of Dutch birds. Since 1995, this project is an important addition to the endeavour of monitoring breeding birds. Read more about research on nesting activity.