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Bird-friendliness Index

Western Meadowlark Photo: Yousif Attia

Birds are an important and sensitive component of the biodiversity in the agricultural working landscape and are good indicators of ecosystem health.

The Bird-friendliness Index uses the bird community as a measure of the biodiversity benefits that a farm is providing.  It takes into account the abundance, conservation need, and bird diversity on a farm to give a robust metric of bird community resilience in a single, easy-to-understand number.

Standardized to the Surrounding Landscape

The bird community in the surrounding landscape is set as the average condition or the ‘business as usual’ for the area. This average is then represented by a 0.5 Bird-friendliness Index score, and the farms’ will receive scores in relation to 0.5. Scores above 0.5 indicate that the farm is providing benefits to biodiversity above and beyond what is typical within the region.

This standardization mitigates the effects of factors outside of producers’ control. For instance, a farm won’t be penalized for a natural population decline due to drought conditions as those conditions will also be affecting bird communities in the surrounding landscape in a similar way. Therefore, the Bird-friendliness Index scores on farms will represent a relative comparison to the surrounding area, resulting in an effective measurement of the impact that management and stewardship activities are having upon the bird communities on those participating farms.

Photo: Pete Davidson

Single, easily conveyed number

The Bird-friendliness Index is presented as a single number between 0 and 1. Each participating farm receives a Bird-friendliness Index score between 0 and 1. This represents how resilient the bird community is on their farm compared to the average in the landscape surrounding the farm. This average is always represented by a Bird-friendliness Index score of 0.5. For example, if a participating farm has a Bird-Friendliness Index value of 0.67, then it is providing benefits to birds above what the business as usual is within the landscape surrounding the farm.

Measured at a Farm or Ranch level

The Bird-Friendliness Index is measured at a farm or ranch level and because of the standardization process, gives an accurate and robust representation of the biodiversity benefits being contributed by an individual operation. The Bird-friendliness Index tells us the positive impacts producers are having upon biodiversity as represented by birds.


Enabling Innovative Conservation

By effectively measuring, demonstrating and communicating biodiversity impacts at a farm level, the Bird-Friendliness Index could act as a mechanism to enable innovative and effective tools. This would help to create a market and policy environment that incentivizes biodiversity and rewards producers for fostering biodiversity on their land. For example, the National Audubon Society, currently utilizes the Bird-friendliness Index in their Conservation Ranching Initiative to demonstrate the impact of the program.

Birds Canada is adapting the Bird-friendliness Index to Canadian working landscapes to help land managers evaluate their properties so that they can adapt their management to help birds and biodiversity thrive. Birds Canada is also exploring and developing ways in which the Bird-friendliness Index may enable innovative and effective conservation tools to reward biodiversity in working landscapes.  For example, cattle producers now can choose to have the Bird-friendliness Index measured on their farms and ranches to fulfill a portion of the requirements needed to become certified by the Canadian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef.

Thick-billed Longspur Photo: Yousif Attia

Thanks to our partners and funders for making this work possible:

ECCC- Canadian Wildlife Service

Saskatchewan Stock Growers Foundation

The Conservation Trust

South of the Divide Conservation Action Program Inc.

Saskatchewan Fish and Wildlife Development Fund

Weston Family Foundation

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