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).
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.
2022 Theme: Light Pollution
Artificial light is increasing globally by at least 2 per cent per year and it is known to adversely affect many bird species. Light pollution is a significant threat to migratory birds, causing disorientation when they fly at night, leading to collisions with buildings, perturbing their internal clocks, or interfering with their ability to undertake long-distance migrations.
Solutions to light pollution are readily available. For instance, more and more cities in the world are taking measures to dim building lights during migration phases in spring and autumn. Best practice guidelines are also being developed under the Convention on Migratory Species to address this growing issue and ensure that action is taken globally to help birds migrate safely.
CMS COP13 Resolutions and Decisions on Addressing Light Pollution
- Resolution 13.5 | Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife
- Annex of Resolution 13.5 | National Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife including Marine Turtles, Seabirds and Migratory Shorebirds
- Decisions 13.138 to 13.139 | Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife
Light Pollution in Geneva
In Geneva, it is estimated that outdoor artificial light has doubled within the past 30 years. Over the past few years, the local authorities have recognized the negative impacts of light pollution on biodiversity and have supported research and new policy in this area. These efforts to address light pollution are in synergy with the Biodiversity Strategy of the Canton. In 2019, the City of Geneva decided to revise its “Light Plan”, the reference document for public light management, with the aim to integrate biodiversity and energy-saving concerns, while improving lighting especially for walking and cycling. In 2021, the Grand Conseil (parliament of the Canton of Geneva) adopted a motion to limit the use of outdoor illuminated signs and night lighting visible from the outside of non-residential buildings between 1.00 and 6.00 am. Other municipalities in the region (both in Switzerland and France) are pledged to turn off or reduce light at night; find the list here.
More resources on light pollution in Geneva are available below (in French):
- Pollution lumineuse | GE-EN-VIE
- Protéger la nuit | Canton of Geneva
- Plan lumière | City of Geneva
- Carte des communes qui éteignent au quotidien | La nuit est belle!
- Genève va limiter la lumière à l’extérieur durant la nuit | RTS | 12 November 2021
- Question / réponse: pollution lumineuse | Bibliothèques municipales de la Ville de Genève | 18 February 2020
- Une étude cartographie la pollution lumineuse à Genève | UNIGE | 21 November 2019
- La pollution lumineuse du bassin genevois passée à la loupe | HEPIA | November 2019
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
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 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.
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 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 2022
Conférence Société de Zoologie Genève | Muséum d’histoire naturelle | 10 May 2022, 20:15 CEST
Muséum d’histoire naturelle | 15 May 2022, 14:00-16:30 CEST
Muséum d’histoire naturelle – Parc Malagnou | 18 May 2022, 14:00-15:00 CEST
The eBird app helps you explore birds and hotspots near you. By recording your sighting, you can also contribute to advancing science and conservation.
Participate in the birdwatching excursions organized every month by Nos Oiseaux.
La nuit est belle ! – Opération festive visant à sensibiliser la population du Grand Genève aux impacts de la pollution lumineuse causée par l’éclairage artificiel excessif | 23 septembre 2022
- Resolution 13.5 – Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife | Convention on Migratory Species
- Annex of Resolution 13.5 – National Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife including Marine Turtles, Seabirds and Migratory Shorebirds | Convention on Migratory Species
- Decisions 13.138 to 13.139 – Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife | Convention on Migratory Species
- Station ornithologique suisse
- Portail de référence des oiseaux sauvages en Suisse
2021 – Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a Bird!
The theme for 2021 is “Sing, Fly, Soar – Like a Bird!“. The campaign focuses 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 reconnect 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 affected 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