Birds Connect Our World – World Migratory Bird Day 2020
“Birds Connect our World” is the 2020 theme for World Migratory Bird Day and reflects how birds through their migratory patterns travel to all parts of the world.
Worldwide, there are eight recognised flyways along which terrestrial and coastal migratory birds travel. Added to this are the paths taken by marine birds over the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Migration is in a north-south direction and is undertaken to escape the cold northern winters. Birds breed in the summer in the far north and spend the non-breeding season in the warmer climates south of the equator.
South Africa at the tip of Africa is at the end of the migratory passage for terrestrial and coastal migratory birds traveling along the two flyways that extend from the northern parts of Europe and Asia into the southern parts of Africa. Marine birds fly further south to islands in the south Atlantic and to Antarctica.
Migration with a few exceptions is not a non-stop flight between two end destinations. Birds stop along the route to feed and rest in order to be able to continue their journey. For waterbirds these stops are at specific wetlands along their route which have been used for as long as they have existed. Without these staging areas, migration would not be possible any impact that will affect these areas will have severe consequences for migratory birds. Human infrastructures inadvertently placed across the paths of migratory birds can also result in a high number of fatalities.
While there are many birds that migrate, two examples of long distance migrants are the Little Stint and Arctic Tern. The Little Stint is a small wader of 21 grams that breeds in arctic Europe and Asia and travels southwards to their overwintering grounds as far south as the wetlands in Cape Town, a mammoth journey for such a small bird.
The Arctic Tern holds the record for the longest journey for any animal in the world travelling annually between the Arctic and Antarctic circle travelling up to an amazing 96000 kilometers a year in the to and fro journey between the two continents.
So, while humans are currently in lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic with restricted movement within their own cities, migratory birds are on the move northwards to their breeding grounds moving not only across countries, but across continents as well.