SEO/BirdLife, 70 years with a head full of birds

Seen from the perspective of 70 years, it is very possible that the 85 founding members who constituted the Spanish Society of Ornithology could in no way imagine how much their initiative would give to the study of birds and their habitats whose Its first headquarters was in the National Museum of Natural Sciences in Madrid. Those pioneers made a door through which, over the years, the 24,000 members that SEO/BirdLife currently has would enter, joined every year by thousands of volunteers and supporters. Together they form a social base that reaches 180,000 people who participate and collaborate in their various activities and citizen science campaigns.


Over the course of 70 years, the conservation organization, the oldest in Spain, in addition to growing, has evolved and has carried out an enormous number and variety of projects and activities to develop its founding principles: combining science and conservation. Therefore, together with the scientific programs, SEO/BirdLife has developed an important catalog of projects focused on the conservation of birds and their habitats. Because, as Asunción Ruiz, its executive director, often says, “our heads are full of birds, but our feet are on the ground.” And, precisely, birds, birds, are an indicator of the conservation of ecosystems. In fact, “monitoring bird populations is an important index used by the European statistical office, Eurostat, to measure social well-being and sustainability,” explains Ramón Martí, director of Institutional Development of the organization.

A review, however cursory, of what has been done shows how much 70 years can give: LIFE projects, ornithological conferences, scientific and popular publications and magazines, creation of reserves and ornithological centers, 13 citizen science programs , and ringing, mobile applications and digital platforms, complaints portal, maps to make renewable energies compatible with bird life, conferences, courses and workshops, ornithological tourism, monitoring of breeding in nests with cameras, international alliances, environmental education programs , a television and radio series, including the push for European Natura 2000 Day and the recognition by the United Nations General Assembly of the right to a clean, healthy and sustainable environment as a universal human right.

Scientific Comittee

SEO/BirdLife has changed enormously since its origins. “When it was born it did not have a special conservationist component, but in recent years there has been a clear reorientation towards the conservation of biodiversity,” highlights Ramón Martí. With this reorientation “it was seen as more necessary than ever to rely on science. Hence the creation, in 2001, of a scientific committee, which reinforces the scientific positioning of SEO/BirdLife when analyzing certain conservation conflicts in which we may be involved, supervision of position documents, such as hunting , renewable energies and reintroduction, or monitoring or census programs. “They define the line to follow in the scientific SEO/BirdLife strategy.”

This committee is made up of 12 ornithologists of recognized prestige, from the university and research centers, and is renewed every four years at the proposal of the outgoing group. In addition, there are also the executive director of the organization, Asunción Ruiz, and the president of SEO/BirdLife, Florentino de Lope.

Social base

The day-to-day operations of the organization are carried out by professionals from different areas who work in 12 offices, between the central headquarters and the regional offices plus those in Doñana and the Ebro Delta.

But, as Asunción Ruiz expressed at the commemorative event of the 70th anniversary, “thanks to all the volunteers who collaborate in doing citizen science, we can take the pulse of biodiversity and know the population trends of each species, something crucial to implement effective conservation measures. their habitats. As he also often says

Hence, a fundamental axis of SEO/BirdLife's social base is its 24,000 members. And, among them those who form the 43 local groups spread throughout the country, “partners who want to participate more actively and get involved either in helping SEO/BirdLife by promoting or representing the organization, or by helping in its actions on the terrain, either by proposing outreach, conservation or nature activities in general,” says Federico García, coordinator of the Social Area of ​​SEO/BirdLife.

This is a figure created in 1992 “due to a demand from the members themselves, who wanted to do things at a local level and participate more in the life of the organization. They are groups of a minimum of six members, and from there more join, whether members or not.

Local groups “are a very necessary element and the organization relies a lot on them. They are our eyes and our hands at the local level. They help spread campaigns, raise funds or even file complaints when they find some type of damage to nests or with allegations to a project,” explains García. “Even,” he continues, “some are specifically dedicated to identifying and caring for nests for the breeding period.” Both of them imply that, “some have even become provincial program coordinators.”

In addition, there are the volunteers who participate occasionally and there the undeniable mobilization capacity of SEO/BirdLife is clear: just to clean beaches after the Prestige disaster they deployed 1,400 people. “and last year around 21,000 collaborated with us on different projects.”