World Migratory Bird Day 2016

2016 Theme: …and when the skies fall silent? Stop the illegal killing, taking and trade!

Stop the illegal killing, taking and trade so that future generations also benefit from natural resources, governments have passed laws – both domestic and international – to ensure sustainability, protecting wild animals including migratory birds by restricting or prohibiting their exploitation. The protection of migratory birds has been coordinated at the international level since the beginning of the twentieth century. Migratory birds were once synonymous with abundance, and seen as a gift coming from the sky. Historically, people have hunted wildlife for a variety of reasons – food and sport - and in the past, such activities were conducted at a scale that was sustainable. In many cases, however, this is no longer true.

Nets along the north coast of Africa kill millions of birds every year - and it is only one example amongst many. The methods used and the numbers taken have changed beyond measure, and the survival of the targeted species which have to face many other pressures such as loss or deterioration of habitats is in doubt. In many countries, robust legislation exists and mechanisms are in place to enforce it; in others, the rules are not followed and the authorities lack the resources or the will to implement them properly on the ground. If once common migratory birds are to be prevented from disappearing, such as the Linnet that has lost 50% of its population since 1980, or the farmland birds with a loss of 300 million individuals in Europe over the same period, the public has to be made aware of the urgency of the threat posed by illegal hunting, taking and trade. Attitudes must change and we can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to those who flout the law and endanger our shared natural heritage.

There is a wide range of reasons for the illegal killing, taking and trade of birds – subsistence uses, recreational activities, organized crime, traditional practice and so on. They vary from one country to another, from one region of the world to another, according to what has been defined as legal or illegal – if at all. Indeed in some countries there is clearly no regulation, while in others regulations do exist but enforcement needs to be improved. Illegal activities not only affect birds’ populations, but they also harm society in general, our very existence and our natural resources. Conservation, agriculture and the tourism sector all suffer from their negative impacts. Legal hunting is affected by these illegal activities as well: despite the role that hunters play in ensuring the sustainability of livelihoods and habitats, they see their reputation jeopardized by illegal killing. While at the same time, elsewhere in the world, these illegal activities are widely socially accepted and therefore persist. Both at the national and the local level, law enforcement is the key driver to help protecting migratory birds, not only in one place but along their entire flyway.

Cooperation and awareness-raising have to be strengthened in order to fight illegal killing. The Intergovernmental Task Force ( set up by the CMS Secretariat is a first concrete answer to the issue in the Mediterranean region. Further actions are needed – and this shared issue should involve and bring together international organizations, governments and civil society. Indeed decisions taken by the international community or by governments will not meet any success if they are not respected or implemented on the ground. That is where civil society has a role to play, at the local level. Let us work together to protect migratory birds from illegal killing, taking and trade!


What is World Migratory Bird Day?

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is an annual awareness-raising campaign highlighting the need for the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats. Each year, on the second weekend in May, people around the world take action and organize public events such as bird festivals, education programmes, exhibitions and bird-watching excursions to celebrate WMBD. However, countries or regions observing the peak of migrations at other times of the year are encouraged to celebrate WMBD when it is most appropriate for them.

History of World Migratory Bird Day

World Migratory Bird Day was initiated in 2006 by the Secretariat of the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS).

Originally, the idea of designating a day for migratory birds arose in the United States in 1993, when the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology initiated celebrations of the ‘International Migratory Bird Day' (IMBD), which encourages bird festivals and education programmes across the Americas. Although this day was and continues to be successfully celebrated in the western hemisphere, something similar was missing for the rest of the world.

On the occasion of its 10th anniversary in 2005, the AEWA Secretariat initiated the Migratory Waterbird Days (MWD) which were held in Africa, Europe and parts of Asia. As this event was well received in the African-Eurasian region, it was decided to broaden the scope into a commemorative day that celebrates all migrating birds on a global scale.

The very first World Migratory Bird Day was launched by AEWA and CMS on the weekend of 8-9 April 2006 on Ms. Kuki Gallmann’s famous wildlife reserve ‘Ole Ari Nyiro’ in Laikipia, Kenya. The central event at the launch - called WINGS - was inspired by the phenomenon of bird migration and was attended by a number of international personalities from the worlds of art, business and conservation.

Since then, WMBD has been celebrated annually and has been growing in popularity each year. The global campaign continues to be organized centrally from Bonn, Germany by the CMS and AEWA Secretariats. Every year more countries, organizations and people are joining the campaign.

2016 Activity 

Celebration activity in Jiangsu Province