The 10th May is World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) an annual initiative, co-ordinated by UNEP/CMS, to raise awareness about the issues around migratory birds and their habitats. In many ways it is also a global celebration about the wonder of bird migration and the amazing journeys that many species make twice each year.
The OSME region is an especially important area for bird migration that covers three migratory flyways: the Central Asian flyway, the East Asia/East Africa flyway and the Black Sea/Mediterranean flyway. The region is especially important for species such as the Critically Endangered Sociable Lapwing that breeds in central Kazakhstan before migrating through south-west Russia, Turkey and the Middle East region en route to Sudan, as well as to India and Pakistan for the winter. The Amazing Journey of the Sociable Lapwing has been well documented by RSPB, BirdLife International, and Swarovski Optic Ornithologists throughout the region are starting to learn more about the movement of other species such as the Dalmatian Pelican.
Migration is a perilous journey and involves a wide-range of threats and challenges that have to be overcome by birds ranging in size from the smallest warblers to huge raptors. One of the key threats to migratory birds in parts of the OSME region is unsustainable hunting practices. Last year OSME were proud to have contributed to a BirdLife led review of the extent of illegal bird killing in the Mediterranean region. This review highlighted that more than 25 million birds are illegally killed each year in the Mediterranean region alone. Worryingly, from an OSME perspective, is that countries such as Cyprus, Egypt, Lebanon and Syria had some of the highest levels of illegal bird killing, including Globally Threatened species such as White-headed Duck, Sociable Lapwing and Egyptian Vulture. Common species, such as Blackcap are also illegal taken in large numbers, almost 1.8million per year, in countries such as Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria.
Increasingly, via the power of social media, we are becoming more aware of large-scale illegal killing of birds in countries outside of the scope of the above-mentioned study. For example, in Kuwait in 2015, Greater Flamingos were illegally and unnecessarily killed, and large numbers of passerines such as Rollers, Golden Orioles and Turtle Doves are routinely paraded on Facebook and Twitter by their proud killers. BirdLife International, OSME and others will be working to assess the extent of such killing during the coming months.
Through awareness campaigns such as World Migratory Bird Day we hope that people become increasingly amazed at the journeys some of our much loved species make. The wonder of migration is truly amazing and the species that undertake such incredible journeys belong to all of us. You can help on World Migratory Bird Day, and indeed on any day of the year, by sharing the natural wonder that is bird migration – please tweet, like and tell your friends about migratory birds.