This year's World Migratory Bird Day theme - "Networking for migratory birds" - highlights the importance of networks of sites for migratory birds along their migration routes. The 2013 World Migratory Bird Day Poster highlights a few of the thousands of sites important for bird migration. Migratory birds travel huge distances along their migration routes, sometimes even tens of thousands of kilometres. These connected sites act like 'stepping stones' and are used by birds to migrate. They are important for resting, feeding, breeding and wintering.
Many sites that birds depend on are under threat from human activities, thereby posing a grave risk to migratory bird species.
Bird migration is so extraordinary that there seems something almost supernatural about it: the more we find out about the feats of navigation and endurance performed by migratory birds, the more amazing they seem. Tiny hummingbirds whirring across the Gulf of Mexico, Bar-tailed Godwits covering eleven thousand kilometres in non-stop flight, soaring birds spiralling in their tens of thousands over land-bridges, songbirds dropping down to hidden desert oases just in time the abilities of migratory birds are awe-inspiring.
Coming down to earth, however, the threats that migrants face are all too real and very often migrant birds are under huge pressure at the exact points where they are most vulnerable. Birds battling to reach the sea-shore descend into a limitless line of nets. Tiny falcons funnel through forests to be trapped in their thousands. Exhausted shorebirds find that the mudflats where they once refuelled are now a sea of concrete, or circle wearily because their roosting sites have vanished. These are just some examples that have caught attention in the last few months indicative of the increasing challenges that migrants now face on their journeys all over the world.
The theme of this year s World Migratory Bird Day, networking for migratory birds, resonates particularly strongly for BirdLife. BirdLife itself is a network, of people and Partner organisations connected up and down all the globe s flyways taking action together for conservation. And BirdLife has devoted much effort, through the Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Programme, to identifying, mapping, monitoring and safeguarding the networks of sites most important for migratory birds.
However, as the examples above show, networks are only as strong as their weakest links. Migratory birds use sites and habitats along the length of their flyways: they need looking after along the length of their flyways too. BirdLife s Migratory Birds and Flyways Programme, one of nine key conservation programmes in the new BirdLife strategy, brings together the actions of BirdLife Partners at a flyways scale.
Within the programme, Partners are working with national governments and others through focused projects, such as the Migratory Soaring Birds Project, working to integrate bird conservation within key economic sectors along the Great Rift Valley flyway; or Living on the Edge, working to address threats to migrant songbirds in the Sahel.
Dr. Marco Lambertini,
Chief Executive, BirdLife International