In southern Europe, rice (Oryza sativa) is one of the most important agricultural crops. Relationships between rice fields and bird occurrence are well studied for some taxa while quantitative data are lacking for other, more secretive, species. Rice cultivation may be important in the conservation of some threatened birds; for example, agricultural flooded areas in northwestern Italy support 25% of the Italian population of Eurasian Bittern (Botaurus stellaris) although variation in farming techniques affect the suitability of fields for birds. Agricultural practices that benefit birds include avoiding intermittent flooding or dry cultivation, maintaining stubble during winter, allowing some weed patches to persist inside fields and along ditches and conserving natural vegetation in rice field landscapes. Additionally, biological and alternative cultivation methods seem to provide better environmental conditions compared to traditional methods. To promote environmental and conservation values of rice fields, BirdLife International coordinates a project throughout Europe for expanding environmentally-friendly rice cultivation. In some regions, rice fields are the only habitat available for wetland birds due to the scarcity or poor quality of natural wetlands. Despite interest in African and Middle Eastern birds and the geographical proximity of these areas to Europe, knowledge of birds and rice fields there is extremely limited. The fact that these regions are located along some of the most important migration routes in the Old World suggests that their rice fields may be used by large numbers of waterbirds.