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Wonderful migratory birds and their marathon migration

Millions of birds undertake a long journey every year and fly over different parts of the world. They cross desserts , oceans, mountains and vast landscapes of different countries. It is truly amazing how migratory birds can navigate with pin-point accuracy. Though  how migrating birds find their flyways is not fully understood , there are few initiatives to do in depth research using modern technologies. Scientists around the world are examining the movement patterns of migratory species.There is a new app called Animal Tracker  from the Max Planck Institute of Ornithology in Germany, one of the world’s foremost ornithology research centres , The app can be used to watch the  astounding feat of endurance of migratory birds in real time – and contribute to the scientific study of it

Much before humans made aero planes and discovered air routes with the help of sophisticated equipment, millions of birds migrated to different parts of the world every year in a set pattern, and used the same air route in a very synchronized and scientific manner. Bird migration finds its place even in Aristotle’s wirings. These birds move from areas of low or decreasing resources to areas of high or increasing resources. Even Aristotle mentions witnessing bird migration in his writings. Over the last century, technological advances have created breakthroughs in radar, acoustic, electronic, and optical technologies that have allowed finer-scale exploration of the ecology of bird migration.

Did you know?
In some places, some birds continue migration in nonstop flights of 60-100 hours that span oceans and continents!

More about flight routes and timings 

• Migratory birds have the perfect morphology and physiology to fly fast and across long distances. Often, their journey is an exhausting one, during which they go to their limits.Birds generally take off 30-45 minutes after sunset.
• Some birds fly all night when conditions are good and land just before dawn the next morning.
• Migration altitude varies by species and by local weather and topographical conditions, ranging from just 10s of meters to several kilometers above the ground.
The Red Knot has one of the longest total migration routes of any bird, travelling up to 16,000 kilometres twice a year.

Have a look at this amazing bird migration  video .It shows the recorded movements of 1,654 individual birds that were tracked between 1992 and 2012. The data represent 58 species, over 2 million locations, and 276,800 tracking days.

The seven-flagship species of migratory birds
• Barn Swallow
• Black-tailed Godwit
• Amur Falcon
• Garganey
• Yellow-Breasted Bunting
• Red Knot

Know more about these Seven  Species of Migratory Birds  here.

Flight Paths

Different types of birds take routes of widely varying lengths. Some round-trip migrations can be as long as 44,000 miles, equivalent to almost two round-the-world trips. Others are much shorter. Some birds even migrate on foot. Many cover thousands of miles and move back and forth between continents.

Migratory birds have made their thousand-mile flights for millennia, but new technologies have made it possible to track their exact route . To know more about their mesmerizing journeys click here.

Common threats

 • Around half a billion (500 million) birds are killed by shooting or trapping as they migrate through the Mediterranean each year. Many of these birds belong to species that are already growing rare. This kind of hunting is often against the law, and against international agreements for the protection of migrating birds.
• Many spring migrants are “farmland” birds which have lived alongside us for hundreds or thousands of years. But farming has changed in the last half-century. Most farmers spray their crops with chemicals that kill insects and “weeds”. There are fewer untidy corners where birds can find insects and seeds to eat, and fewer hedges, old trees and old buildings where they can nest.
• Our towns are becoming bigger, leaving less space for birds to feed and rest. The tall buildings, roads, railways, power-lines, wind turbines and transmission masts that modern life depends on can be barriers to birds, and when built in the wrong places, can kill thousands of birds every year.
• Any human-built structure that incorporates glass or reflective building material into the design can be the site of bird collisions during the day. This includes bus shelters, car windows, houses, greenhouses, solariums, office towers, restaurants, and any other structures where windows and/or reflective surfaces are present. At night, transmission towers, office towers, monuments, lighthouses, oil rigs-virtually any tall illuminated structure can be responsible for bird deaths. Collisions with buildings are a leading cause of migratory bird death, second only to habitat loss.

Do you know ?
Birds have no concept of glass. With windows everywhere—houses, cottages, condos, apartments, balconies—for spring and fall migrating birds, reflective glass can be deadly.

Watch this video describing what bird-window collisions are, why they are important, and what you can do to prevent them.

Why Migratory Birds Need Protection – all along their Flyways

There are many different migration patterns. The majority of birds migrate from northern breeding areas to southern wintering grounds. However, some birds breed in southern parts of Africa and migrate to northern wintering grounds, or along lines of latitude, to enjoy the milder coastal climates in winter. Other birds reside in lowlands during the winter months and move to higher altitudes for the summer.
Migration is a perilous journey and exposes the animals to a wide range of threats, often caused by human activities. As migratory birds depend on a range of sites throughout their journey along their flyway, the loss of wintering and stopover sites could have a dramatic impact on the animals’ chances of survival.
Flying long distances involves crossing many borders between countries with differing environmental policies, legislation and conservation measures. International cooperation among governments, NGOs and other stakeholders is required along the entire flyway of a species in order that knowledge can be shared and conservation efforts coordinated.

The legal framework and coordinating instruments necessary for such cooperation is provided by multilateral environmental agreements such as the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (AEWA).

Avian mortality due to collisions with manmade structures is staggering. It is estimated more than 1 billion migrating birds are killed annually in building collisions—residential and commercial .

World Migratory Bird Day

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is an Annual Global Celebration. The day was initiated in 2006 and is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. It has a global outreach and is an effective tool to help raise global awareness of the threats faced by migratory birds, their ecological importance, and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.
Every year people around the world take action and organize public events such as bird festivals, education programmes, exhibitions and bird-watching excursions to celebrate WMBD. All these activities can also be undertaken at any time on the year because that countries or regions observing the peak of migrations at different times. Migratory Bird Day 2018 will begin on Saturday, May 12 and ends on Sunday, May 13.

From this year onwards, the new joint campaign will adopt the single name of “World Migratory Bird Day” and major celebration events will be organized twice a year, on the Second Saturday in May and October.

Projects to save migratory birds

Migratory Soaring Birds Project

The Migratory Soaring Birds project is working in 11 countries within the Rift Valley/Red Sea Flyway: Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Jordan, Lebanon, Palestine, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen.

Spring Alive

Spring Alive is an international project to encourage children’s interest in nature and the conservation of migratory birds and to get them to take action for birds and other wildlife as well as to participate in events organized by BirdLife Partners


BirdLife  is widely recognised as the world leader in bird conservation. s a global partnership of conservation organisations (NGOs) that strives to conserve birds, their habitats and global biodiversity, working with people towards sustainability in the use of natural resources. Together they are 121 BirdLife Partners worldwide .

Efforts in the region

The UAE has rich marine food sources, mudflats, lagoons and mud flats sanctuaries and hence provide a perfect rest stop for these world travelers. An estimated three million birds call upon the UAE’s 83,600 square kilometres annually through four aerial flight corridors which form part of what’s called the Palaearctic-Asian Flyway.
BirdLife International reveals that the UAE has been fully engaged in protecting birds as a party to 16 global and regional agreements and conventions over the decades.The UAE was one of 200 parties in a meeting in Bonn that strengthened the AEWA agreement, administered by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), with 22 new resolutions, including action plans for highly threatened seabirds and guidelines for the sustainable use of waterbirds.

MSB Lebanon and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Lebanon (SPNL), BirdLife in Lebanon, have been delegated by the government the responsibility of setting the scene for the implementation of the new hunting law in Lebanon. For that purpose, MSB Lebanon and SPNL have developed the hunter manual guide as well as the hunting permit exam and have conducted several training workshops across the country to build the capacity of law enforcers and hunting clubs on bird identification and on the new hunting law.

Capitalizing on its positive working relationships with the Egyptian and Lebanese Ministries of Environment and with the CMS secretariat, the MSB project was able to catalyze and facilitate Egypt & Lebanon’s signing of the Raptor MoU. The overall aim of the Raptor MoU is “to promote internationally coordinated actions to achieve and maintain the favourable conservation status of migratory birds of prey throughout their range in the African-Eurasian region, and to reverse their decline when and where appropriate”.

(Information source: Birdcast, worldmigratorybirdday , Flap, Gulf News )

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