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 on 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. In 2021, it will be celebrated on 8 May and 9 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).
The theme for 2021 is “Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a Bird!“. The campaign will focus on the phenomena of “bird song” and “bird flight” as a way to inspire and connect people of all ages around the world in their shared desire to celebrate migratory birds and to unite in a common, global effort to protect birds and the habitats they need to survive. The theme is an invitation to people everywhere to connect and re-connect with nature by actively listening to – and watching birds – wherever they are. At the same time the theme appeals to people around the world to use their own voices and creativity to express their shared appreciation of birds and nature.
Birds can be found everywhere: in cities and in the countryside; in parks and backyards, in forests and mountains, and in wetlands and along the shores. They connect all these habitats and they connect us, reminding us of our own connection to the planet, the environment, wildlife and each other. Through their seasonal movements, migratory birds are also regularly reminding us of nature’s cycles.
As global ambassadors of nature, migratory birds not only connect different places across the planet, they also re-connect people to nature and to themselves like no other animals on the planet. In fact, billions of migratory birds have continued to sing, fly and soar between their breeding and non-breeding sites. During the pandemic, which slowed down many activities by limiting our movements, people across the world have been listening to and watching birds like never before. For many people around the world, bird song has also been a source of comfort and joy during the pandemic, connecting people to each other and to nature as they remain in place.
Scientists around the world have also been studying the impact the pandemic is having on birds and other wildlife, looking at how “the anthropause” – the so-called global shutdown in human activity resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic – has effected birds and other wildlife around the world. At the same time, scientists have also been looking at the positive health benefits of birds and nature on humans. Clearly, the pandemic has been an unprecedented challenge for humankind. At the same time, it has also brought a whole new level of awareness and appreciation of birds and the importance of nature for our own well-being.
World Migratory Bird Day 2021 is therefore not only a celebration of birds, it is also an important moment to reflect on our own global relationship with nature and to highlight our collective desire to do more to protect birds and nature in a post-pandemic world.
Migratory birds connect us with their unique songs and flights, and remind us of the importance of working together, across borders, to protect them.
Key message for World Migratory Bird Day 2021
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, plastic pollution are just a few of the diverse threats that 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.
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 to coordinate conservation efforts. The legal framework and coordinating instruments necessary for such cooperation is 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 (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
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)
CITES is an 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 on Appendix I) and regulates trade for another 1,300 more species under specific controlled circumstances (listed on 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 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.
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 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.
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.
Join WMBD 2021
Express your talent and share with the world how birds inspire you, as part of the global campaign for WMBD.
The eBird app helps you explore birds and hotspots near you. By recording your sighting, you can also contribute to advance science and conservation.
Join the bird observation activities hosted by BirdLife International all across Europe on 2-3 October.