Numerous bird species of European interest nest in the "bassa parmense". These are the Red-Backed Shrike, the Lesser Grey Shrike, the Great Bittern, the Little Bittern, the Night heron, the Squacco Hero, the Great Egret, the Little Egret, the Purple Heron and the Kingfisher.
Two raptors, the Lesser Kestrel and the Red-footed Falcon, are of significant interest. These populations are on the extreme edge of the speciesí distribution areas and only started nesting in the "pianura parmense" in the mid nineteen. Natural rural landscape features such as meadows and alfalfa crops, used for the production of Parmesan cheese, have been a contributing factor.
The project Life+ "Pianura Parmense", funded by the E.C. LIFE+ Nature Programme, LIFE+ Natura, will be operative from 2009-2012. It comprises action schemes to protect birds of European importance and enhance and restore their habitats within the six areas designated as Natura 2000 sites, (SCI, Sites of Community Importance and SPAs, Special Protection Areas). An ecological network will be created to enhance conditions for the distribution of the various species in areas outside the Natura 2000 network.
Importance of the project on a European scale
The breeding sites used in the Parma area by the Red-footed falcon and the Lesser Kestrel are located on the extreme edge of their distribution areas. There has been a steady increase in the number of pairs over the last ten years and this has important implications for conservation schemes for the species on a European scale.
Currently, populations are still small in numerical terms. However, if a correlation between these species and the permanent meadows of the Po valley is confirmed, positive and significant results may be obtained from an area which has not yet been taken into consideration for their conservation. Monitoring to be carried out under the scheme would provide new indicators for international action plans for the two species.
As for the Heron family target species (the Purple heron, the Squacco Heron, the Great Egret, the Little Egret, the Great Bittern and the Little Bittern), the aim is to protect species which are distinctive to the project area. Their trophic and breeding habitats still occupy only a fraction of the area and need to be expanded to ensure a favourable conservation status of these species.
Species with large nesting colonies exceeding a hundred pairs, such as the Little Egret and the Night Heron, need to be protected on a European scale. Intervention is required to protect other species, (the Grey Heron, the Purple heron, the Squacco Hero, the Great Bittern and Little Bittern), whose habitats can potentially be restored but are currently under threat all over Europe.