What is World Migratory Bird Day?
This year’s theme for World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is to stop the illegal killing, taking and trade of migratory birds.
World Migratory Bird Day was initiated in 2006 and is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the threats faced by migratory birds, their ecological importance, and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.
Migratory birds fly hundreds and thousands of kilometres to find the best ecological conditions and habitats for feeding, breeding and raising their young. The majority of birds migrate from northern breeding areas to southern wintering grounds. However, some birds breed in southern parts of Africa migrate to northern wintering grounds, or horizontally, to enjoy the milder coastal climates in winter.
Why do migratory birds need protection, you ask?
Migration is a perilous journey and involves a wide range of threats, often caused by human activities. Flying long distances involves crossing many borders between countries with differing environmental politics, legislation and conservation measures. And as diverse as people and their habits in different countries are, so are threats the birds face. As migratory birds depend on a range of sites along their distribution area, the loss of wintering and stopover sites could have a dramatic impact on the birds’ chances of survival.
How can you as a tourist to Southern Africa help?
BirdLife Botswana has embarked on a monitoring programme to obtain more information on numbers and distributions of migratory and other birds to assist in the preparation of a Red Data List for Botswana.
Several migratory species are listed as Birds of Concern by BirdLife Botswana, which include but are not limited to the European Roller and the Lesser Kestrel. These are summer migrants, wintering in Southern Africa, which in Botswana falls between the months of November to April.
Birding enthusiasts may be surprised to hear of the inclusion of the European Roller, a species which has been steadily declining to the point where it is actually quite scarce.
The Lesser Kestrels migration has been credited with one of the most spectacular natural sights in summer in Southern Africa as hundreds of thousands of these birds congregate at dusk at their communal roosts. Unfortunately, this is now no longer a common scene.
Decisions taken by the international community or by governments will not be successful if they are not respected or implemented on the ground. That is where both our staff and guests can play a role at a local level.
If you’re travelling to the area during the summer migratory months between November and April, BirdLife Botswana would appreciate your assistance in recording sightings in order to establish changes in abundance or distribution. You can view a full list of the requirements needed here.
Let’s work together, not just on World Migratory Bird Day, but everyday to protect migratory birds from illegal killing, taking and trade!