Mise à jour: 03 Mai 2024

World Migratory Bird Day - celebrated on the second Saturday in May and the second Saturday in October - is an annual global campaign dedicated to raising awareness of migratory birds and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.


World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) 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 of the year because countries or regions observing the peak of migrations at different times, but the main days for the international celebrations on the second Saturday in May and in October.

WMBD is organized by a collaborative partnership among two UN treaties -the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) -and the non-profit organization, Environment for the Americas (EFTA).

Yearly Theme and Events

Twice a year, World Migratory Bird Day is celebrated under a specific theme. Discover the theme of each edition and events in Geneva by clicking on the date

  • 2024: Insects | 11 May & 12 October
  • 2023: Water | 13 May & 14 Ocotber
  • 2022: Light Pollution | 14 May & 8 October
  • 2021: Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a Bird! | 8 May & 9 October
  • 2020: Birds Connect Our World | 9 May & 10 October

The Importance of Migratory Birds

Avian migration is a natural miracle. Over 2,000 species − 20% of all known bird species – travel long distances to breed and feed. They fly hundreds and thousands of kilometres to find the best ecological conditions and habitats for feeding, breeding and raising their young. When conditions at breeding sites become unfavourable, it is time to fly to regions where conditions are better.

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 horizontally, to enjoy the milder coastal climates in winter. Other birds reside on lowlands during the winter months and move up a mountain for the summer.

Because they travel long distances, migratory birds have crucial roles across different regions – maintaining natural ecosystems and sustaining people’s livelihoods. These birds don’t just control the numbers of pests and insects that would otherwise plague our natural environments and our crops – many serve as pollinators, moving seeds and nutrients across the world. In fact, the seeds of over 90% of all woody tree species are moved around by birds.

Why Migratory Birds Need Protection

Migration is a perilous journey and involves a wide range of threats, often caused by human activities. Climate change, habitat loss, and plastic pollution are just a few of the diverse threats that 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.

Flying long distances involves crossing many borders between countries with differing environmental politics, legislation and conservation measures. Thus, international cooperation among governments, NGOs and other stakeholders is required along the entire flyway of a species in order to share knowledge and coordinate conservation efforts. The legal framework and coordinating instruments necessary for such cooperation are provided by multilateral environmental agreements such as CMS and AEWA.

Migratory Birds in Geneva

Switzerland is of particular importance as a wintering and resting place for various migratory waterbird species. The Geneva region contains some important ecosystems for migratory birds, with several protected areas of international and national importance.

Migratory birds can be observed as they return from their winter quarters between late February to mid-May, and between August and early November when they head south. The Swiss Ornithological Institute has made available the schedule of each species (spring/autumn) and further information on where and how to observe them. For more information on the various bird species living near Geneva, you may consult the list of birds of the Geneva Basin and best places to observe them (in French).

The platform Dans Ma Nature offers an overview of all activities in Geneva for nature-lovers. Developed by the Canton of Geneva and partners, it showcases the immensely rich biodiversity of the region and includes many spots and tips to enjoy bird watching.

Actors of Geneva

International Geneva

Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)

CITES is a multilateral agreement aiming to ensure that international trade in specimens of wild animals and plants does not threaten the survival of the species. The convention currently forbids international commercial trade of 161 bird species (listed in Appendix I) and regulates trade for another 1,300 more species under specific controlled circumstances (listed in Appendix II).

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

IUCN is the world’s largest conservation network with the mission to influence, encourage and assist societies throughout the world to conserve the integrity and diversity of nature. The IUCN Red List is the world’s most comprehensive information source on the global extinction risk status of animal, fungus and plant species. It provides essential data for informed conservation decisions – including for protecting some endangered migratory bird species.

Convention on Wetlands of International Importance (Ramsar Convention)

The Ramsar Convention aims to ensure the conservation and wise use of all wetlands through local and national actions and international cooperation, as a contribution towards achieving sustainable development throughout the world. Wetlands provide vital habitats for many bird species, and they are important to migratory birds in flyways, in nesting areas, and in fall and winter feeding areas. Populations of waterbirds thus are part of the criteria for wetlands to be considered internationally important under the Ramsar Convention.

WWF International

WWF works on numerous projects around the world to address the many issues that threaten bird species. These efforts include increasing the amount of protected areas to limit habitat loss, seeking strong international laws that reduce the illegal bird trade, and constantly working to build awareness about the incredible diversity of bird species and the importance of protecting them.

Local Geneva

Canton of Geneva

Aware of the rich biodiversity of its territory, the Canton of Geneva has developed a strategy to protect its natural ecosystems and the services they provide to its residents. Through restoration initiatives and conservation actions, the Canton is engaged in protecting the habitats of many bird species.

Centre Ornithologique de Réadaptation (COR)

The Centre Ornithologique de Réadaptation (COR) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the care of birds in need and the protection of avifauna. Its mission is to provide the best care for local wildlife birds allowing them to quickly return to the while, while educating and informing the public on issues related to the protection of birds.

Faune Genève

Faune Genève is a non-profit association aiming at protecting and raising awareness on the fauna of Geneva. Its website is an official platform for naturalists and wildlife observers in the region.

Groupe des Jeunes de Nos Oiseaux

The Groupe des Jeunes de Nos Oiseaux brings together dozens of young people (up to 25 years old) who are passionate about birds, their observation in nature and their protection.

Groupe Ornithologique du Bassin Genevois

The Groupe Ornithologique du Bassin Genevois (GOBG) studies and protects birds in the Geneva area, including the canton of Geneva, the Côte (VD), as well as the Pays de Gex and the area bordering the Haute Savoie. The GOBG leads projects to protect the Athena’s Owl, Middle Spotted Woodpecker, Hoopoe and Rook, and also contributes to the protection of birds in a more general way, as a partner for the cantonal and communal authorities, as well as for the nature protection associations of the region.

La Libellule

La Libellule is a non-profit association dedicated to raising public awareness of nature through two poles: field activities organized mainly in the Geneva region and a nature center, an educational and meeting place, located in the heart of the city.

Pro Natura

Pro Natura is the oldest nature preservation organization in Switzerland, with several protected sites with important wildlife such as the Centre Nature Vallon de l’Allondon and the Centre Nature de la Pointe à la Bise in Geneva.

WWF Geneva

WWF Geneva works to implement projects in support of biodiversity, which includes a Panda Club that organizes outings and activities for young people on environmental issues.

Zoï Environment Network

Zoï Environment Network is a Geneva-based non-profit organization that specialises in the analysis and communication of environmental issues.  To illustrate the issues faced by migratory species face many risks and barriers to survival, problems and possible solutions, Zoï Environment Network created a cartoon-style poster and board game based on situations in Central Asia, taking into account some of the guidelines and decisions of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS).