Fabio Casale & Michele Bove

Winter floodings of lowland hay meadows create suitable wintering habitats for an important population of Northern Lapwing and other bird species of European conservation interest.

Ticino River Valley Park is located in Lombardy region, north – western Italy. It is the largest natural area included in Po river plain and has a surface of about 100.000 ha, half of which is farmland.

The Park hosts 200-300 breeding pairs of Northern lapwings, that represents about 5% of the Italian breeding population (4800-6050 pairs), and 600-800 wintering individuals (Casale 2015). The species mainly breeds in ricefields and wheat fields and mostly overwinter in flooded meadows, locally called “marcite” (Casale et al. 2017), that where identified and mapped by the Park as habitat of high natural interest and preserved according to the Plan of the Park.

Bird monitoring has been carried out from 2011 to 2017 in 18 “marcite”, for a total surface of 195 ha (Casale et al., 2017). A total of 111 bird species were censused, including 17 species of community interest according to EEC Birds Directive and 35 SPEC – Species of European Conservation Concern according to BirdLife International (2017). Table 1 shows the numbers of some bird species of conservation interest that are well represented in the „marcite“.

Tab. 1. Species of conservation interest regularly recorded in winter in flooded meadows („marcite“)

The table shows as well if during the winter there was a period of at least a week in which meadows were frozen or covered by snow or both. It is clear the in these situations the habitat is much more frequented by bird species of conservation interest, and by birds in general.

The Park has a partnership (with their products having the logo “Parco Ticino”) with many farmers working inside the area of the Park and give contributions for winter flooding of “marcite” since the 90s (Bove & Marchesi 2016). These wet grasslands are as well suitable breeding grounds for Northern lapwings. “Marcite” are as well a habitat of historical and cultural value, since they are present in the Po plain since the Middle Age (Leonardo Da Vinci designed some of them). Contribution are also given for not mowing some grasslands or delaying the mowing activities after the conclusion of breeding seasons. These conservation actions for the period 2017-2020 are realized in the framework of LIFE Project “Ticino Biosource: Enhancing Biodiversity by Restoring Source Areas for Priority and Other Species of Community Interest in Ticino Park” LIFE15 NAT/IT/000989, co-funded by the European Commision.

Lombardy Region gives contributions to the farmers that operate inside the Park in the framework of agri-environment schemes of the Rural Development Programme for ricefields, that include excavating channels inside ricefield “chambers” and live ditches with natural vegetation, especially in favour of breeding lapwings and black-winged stilts. These interventions are mainly due to the recent spreading of a new technique of cultivation of rice, with very low input of water, that reduce the suitable breeding habitats for these species (Università degli Studi di Pavia 2012).


BirdLife International, 2017. European birds of conservation concern: populations, trends and national responsibilities. Cambridge, UK: BirdLife International.

Bove M. & Marchesi M., 2016. Agricoltura e biodiversità nel Parco del Ticino [Agriculture and biodiversity in Ticino Park]. Parco Lombardo della Valle del Ticino e Fondazione Lombardia per l’Ambiente.

Casale F., 2015. Atlante degli Uccelli del Parco Lombardo della Valle del Ticino [Atlas of the Birds of Ticino Park]. Parco Lombardo della Valle del Ticino e Fondazione Lombardia per l’Ambiente.

Casale F., Bove M., Badino B., Cameroni D., Cortesi O., Poma C., Sala D., Bellani A., 2017. Gli uccelli delle marcite del Parco Lombardo della Valle del Ticino: 7 anni di monitoraggi (2011-2017) [The Birds of winter flooded meadows in Ticino Park: 7 years of monitoring (2011-2017)]. Tichodroma 6: 83.

Università degli Studi di Pavia, 2012. La coltivazione delle risaie di elevato valore biologico e naturalistico. Fauna. Progetto CORINAT [The cultivation of ricefields of high biological and naturalistic value. Wildlife. CORINAT Project]. Relazione tecnica non pubblicata.

published: 02/2020


Fabio Casale, Fondazione Lombardia per l’Ambiente, Milan, Italy.
E-Mail: fabio.casale@libero.it

Michele Bove, Parco Lombardo della Valle del Ticino, Magenta, Italy.
E-Mail: michele.bove@parcoticino.it