Department of Environmental Affairs marks World Migratory Bird Day 2018

16 October 2018


The Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) marks the celebration of the second annual season for World Migratory Bird Day to raise awareness and educate the public on the plight of migratory bird species, and the conservation of their habitats.

The theme for this year’s World Migratory Bird Day is Unifying Our Voices for Bird Conservation, which seeks to reach out to a broader audience and amplify the message for the need for bird conservation. The campaign not only raises awareness about the need for conservation of migratory birds and their habitats, but also about the threats they face, their ecological importance and the need for international cooperation to conserve these species.

In December 2018, South Africa will host the 7th Session of the Meeting of the Parties (MOP7) to the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA) in Durban. The conference will bring together approximately 350 delegates from Africa, Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia to set an ambitious path for the next decade by adopting a new Strategic Plan for 2019 - 2027. In addition, this meeting will also provide the opportunity to the African Region to exchange views and experiences on activities relating to the conservation and management of the migratory species and to strengthen their cooperation on issues that are best dealt with at regional level.

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).

On 26 October 2017, on the margins of the CMS 12th Conference of the Parties (COP12) in the Philippines, Parties adopted innovative partnership to increase awareness of the plight of migratory birds worldwide. The new partnership formally unites two of the world's largest bird education campaigns - International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) and World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) -- in a bid to strengthen global recognition and appreciation of migratory birds and highlight the urgent need for their conservation.

World Migratory Bird Day has, as of this year, been celebrated twice a year – on the second Saturday in May, and on 13 October – in order to amplify the message of the need for conservation of all bird species.  This year Twitchers worldwide observe another important transition in the history of World Migratory Bird Day – unifying major migratory bird corridors, or flyways: the African-Eurasian flyway, the East Asian-Australasian flyway, and the Americas flyways.

The timing of the International World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is interrelated to the departure of migratory birds from the Southern Hemisphere to the Northern Hemisphere for the summer.  Most bird species migrate to areas where there is abundant food and nesting grounds annually.  However, large numbers of birds are killed on their return flight from the Northern to the Southern Hemisphere due to human behaviour.  This includes pollution, deforestation, as well as more extreme weather conditions associated with climate change.

A number of common species migrate to South Africa every year.

These are:

  • Greater Striped Swallow which endemic to Africa south of the equator. The species is found from southern Democratic Republic of Congo and Angola to Zambia and Southern Africa.
  • Amur Falcon, which is found in south-eastern Siberia and Northern China before migrating in large flocks across India and over the Arabian Sea to winter in Southern Africa.
  • White-rumped Swift which breed in much of sub-Saharan Africa, and have expanded into Morocco and southern Spain. The populations in Spain, Morocco and the south of Africa are migratory, although their wintering grounds are not definitively known.
  • White Stork   which is found from tropical Sub-Saharan Africa to as far south as South Africa.
  • Pygmy and Woodland Kingfishers which are found across sub-Saharan Africa and are   intra-African migrant birds.
  • Yellow-billed Kite Kite. The European populations move south into sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East, whilst populations north of Pakistan and the Himalayas travel into south Asia.)   

An appeal is made to all South Africans to contribute to improving the plight of migratory birds by conserving and creating more bird-friendly landscapes. This is because migratory birds are important for Avitourism, which results in approximately three million trips undertaken internationally by tourist for birding purposes each year.

Avitourism, as it has come to be known, refers to travel outside of one’s usual environment. It generates millions of rands annually, contributing significantly to GDP. According to a study published in 2010 by the Department of Trade and Industry on Avitourisim, South Africa has core birding asserts compared to competitor destinations. As a result, the total size of the Avitourisim market is between 21 000 and 40 000 visitors annually. Domestic Avitourists numbers range between 13 000 and 24 000 per annum. The DTI study estimated Avitourists’  total spend to be in the region of R927 million to R1.725 billion per year with domestic Avitourism spend accounting for between R482 million and R890 million. 

For media inquiries contact:

Albi Modise
Cell: 083 490 2871