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World Migratory Bird Day


On the second weekend of May every year, the world celebrates World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD).  This year, on May 11 and 12, ornithological societies and clubs, conservation nonprofits, zoos, parks, schools, and many other organizations will hold events focused around the incredible migration of hundreds of our planet’s avian species. 


In the western hemisphere, the celebration is called International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD), and has been observed since 1993 after its institution by the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center.  It has grown in the last 7 years to become a worldwide event under the name of World Migratory Bird Day stewarded by UN agencies, with hundreds of activities taking place in well over a hundred countries. 


This year’s theme is “Networking for Migratory Birds,” which was chosen to underline the importance of networks of sites that migratory birds use as stops in their perilous journey.  Many species travel across distances stretching from Siberia to South Africa, traversing thousands of miles.  Without rest stops used for feeding, resting, breeding, and wintering, their wonderful migration would simply not be possible.


Unfortunately, many such sites are in danger of being lost due to human activity and climate change.  Any interruption on the migratory pathways could lead to tremendous consequences for migratory birds, which is why international cooperation has become essential for preserving their populations.  The Convention of Migratory Species is a principal framework for such collaboration, and has resulted in several international documents facilitating common stewardship of migratory birds, such as the Agreement on the Conservation of the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds


The activities held during the weekend of May 11 and 12 will help increase public awareness on the conservation efforts under way to protect migratory birds.  They will also allow for the public to observe the beautiful phenomenon that bird migration is through a series of bird watching events.


The international gateway to WMBD celebrations is the website hosted by the United Nations Environment Program.  It provides a wealth of resources on the annual observance, including its background, a global event map, and various ways to participate and celebrate


In the United States, the observance is spearheaded by Environment for the Americas (EFTA), a nonprofit organization created following IMBD’s initial success with the goal of coordinating the celebrations in North America.  The EFTA website features additional information on the IMBD such as a North America event map and many other educational tools.  Even more resources can be found on the dedicated website of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.



Various other organizations have planned IMBD across the United States.  On May 11, the Smithsonian National Zoological Park is holding a Bird Fest with guided bird hikes, games and crafts for kids, and a bird-themed planetarium show.  Regional activities are also planned by the Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy, the National Park Service, Cradle of Forestry, and various Audubon organizations across the country.