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World Migratory Bird Day: To Let the Birds Fly Free

World Migratory Bird Day occurs on the second Saturday in May in the Americas and the second Saturday in October in other parts of the world. The day celebrates the incredible journeys made by migratory birds, which often span thousands of miles.

The occasion aims to raise awareness about the challenges of their expeditions, emphasizing the need for international cooperation in conserving these avians and their habitats. Whether you’re a bird lover or a nature enthusiast, read on to learn more.

Featured in: May - Awareness Months, Days & Observances, October - Awareness Months, Days & Observances.

History and Background of World Migratory Bird Day

seagulls flying
Photo by engin akyurt on Unsplash.

The Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) initiated World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) in 2006. These treaties aim to protect migratory birds and their habitats and are under the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). 

WMBD was inspired by the well-received International Migratory Bird Day, which has been celebrated in the Americas since 1993. In 2018, both events joined forces, creating a more unified call for bird conservation worldwide.

WMBD has also gained popularity in more than 70 countries, with each country hosting a diverse range of events, including bird festivals, educational programs, and bird-watching trips. 

Every year, a different theme takes center stage, highlighting the various aspects of bird migration, such as “Water: Sustaining Bird Life” in 2023. Virtually all migratory birds need water to sustain themselves on their journey.

The Cause and Its Challenges

Migration is a natural occurrence that complexly connects the world's ecosystems. However, it is also fraught with challenges. 

Many migratory bird species rest on aquatic ecosystems like coastal wetlands, lakes, streams, ponds, and marshes. Sometimes, they find their resting spots destroyed by urbanization, agriculture, and deforestation. 

Additionally, pollution and climate change interfere with migratory patterns, disturbing the timing of their life cycles. They can arrive on their feeding grounds at different times, miss vital food resources, delay breeding seasons, and more. Mistiming of migration can eventually lead to population decline2.

Our activities have also interfered with them. First, increasing human demand for water limits the supply of clean water for the birds. Next, the bright lights of cities can also confuse them and result in fatal collisions with buildings. Last but not least, hunting and trapping also threaten them. 

Migratory birds rely on routes that span multiple countries and regions, leading to a complex web of jurisdictions regarding their protection. Implementing protective measures that work across borders is a difficult task. 

Nevertheless, we must ensure they succeed because they play a critical role in the ecosystem, controlling pests, pollinating plants, and dispersing seeds. The situation calls for immediate attention to address these challenges and improve the increasingly threatened birds’ conservation status.

Read more: Bird Facts, Types of Birds.

Efforts and Initiatives

birds flying under the purple sky
Photo by Samantha Kennedy on Unsplash.

The National Audubon Society in the United States advocates for bird conservation through their Birds Tell Us campaign, highlighting the impact of climate change on bird populations. 

The Cornell Lab of Ornithology also promotes citizen science through its Celebrate Urban Birds (CUB) initiative, encouraging people to protect birds in their backyards.

One particular bird that has garnered international attention1 is the Spoon-billed Sandpiper, which is on the verge of extinction. The Save the Spoon-billed Sandpiper campaign has united governments, NGOs, and local communities in a collective effort to conserve this species and preserve biodiversity. 

How to Get Involved and Support World Migratory Bird Day

  • Join local bird-watching societies that host events, including bird counts that help track migration patterns. These activities have scientific value and are also enjoyable. 
  • Participate in local clean-up drives and support organizations that protect migratory birds through volunteering or monetary donations. 
  • Use social media platforms to create awareness and get #WorldMigratoryBirdDay trending. Share only credible educational resources.
  • Read about the lives of migratory birds. Start with our article on types of birds and discover the life of each avian.

Conclusion

This vital day reminds us of the importance of migratory birds in maintaining the balance of our ecosystems. They travel across borders and continents. However, they face habitat loss, pollution, and the potential threat of climate change.

Everyone can protect these birds and their migratory routes by supporting policies that safeguard them, contributing to bird counts, or raising awareness of their importance. By protecting these birds and their migratory journeys, we can ensure they continue to grace our skies. 

World Migratory Bird Day FAQs

1. What is World Migratory Bird Day?

It is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the importance of migratory birds and their conservation. It is celebrated on the second Saturday in May and in October.

2. Why do birds migrate?

Birds migrate to find suitable breeding grounds, better food sources, and favorable weather conditions across different regions.

3. What challenges do migratory birds face?

Migratory birds face habitat loss, climate change, pollution, hunting, and collisions with artificial structures like buildings and communication towers.

4. How can I support the conservation of migratory birds?

You can support local conservation organizations, create bird-friendly environments in your backyard, reduce pesticide use, and spread awareness about the importance of protecting these birds.

1

Clark, N. A., Anderson, G. Q., Li, J., Syroechkovskiy, E. E., Tomkovich, P. S., Zöckler, C., Lee, R., & Green, R. E. (2016). First formal estimate of the world population of the Critically Endangered spoon-billed sandpiper Calidris pygmaea. Oryx, 52(1), 137–146.

2

Both, C., Bouwhuis, S., Lessells, C. M., & Visser, M. E. (2006). Climate change and population declines in a long-distance migratory bird. Nature, 441(7089), 81-83.

By Mike Gomez, BA.

Mike is a degree-qualified researcher and writer passionate about increasing global awareness about climate change and encouraging people to act collectively in resolving these issues.

Fact Checked By:
Isabela Sedano, BEng.

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