“World Migratory Bird Day” was born in 2006 and jointly initiated by United Nations “African Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement” and “Convention on Migratory Species” (CMS). Unlike the previous years, “World Migratory Day” is increased to twice a year, which falls into the second Saturday of May and October, starting from this year. The theme for this year’s “World Migratory Bird Day” is “Unifying our Voices for Bird Conservation”.
Many migratory birds in the world are breeding, staying or wintering in coastal wetland. In fact, three of the nine global routes for bird migration go through China. These migrating birds are always on the move and there are interesting things in their friend circles every day. Let’s take a look now.
The youngest pilot: start migration 20 days after birth
Spoon-billed Sandpiper, one of the most endangered species, is born in the cold and remote fast east area of Russia. The young birds are very independent and might leave their nest under the leadership of their father on the first day after hatching and start to find food on their own. After over 20 days and growing wings, they would leave their father and set foot on the journey southwards.
The flier with the best endurance: flying for 8 days without stop
In each year’s migratory season, some migratory water birds can fly around the clock for days without stop and reach their destination. The record holder for longest non-stop flying distance of birds is a male Limosa Lapponica with the code E7. In September 2007, E7 took 8.2 days and flew non-stop for 11587 miles, crossing the Pacific Ocean and completing the magnificent feat of migrating from Alaska, USA to New Zealand.
Migratory route of Limosa Lapponica E7
Limosa Lapponica | photo taken by Terry Townshend
Champion of the farthest migration: 15 times the distance from Beijing to Shanghai
Calidris canutus is the master of long-distance flying. In the spring and autumn migration, some calidris canutuses might fly for over 15,000 miles in single journey, worthy of the name of one of the migrants with the longest distance. It’s interesting that the weight of calidris canutus before flying would be roughly doubled before taking off and reach about 600 grams, so as to reserve energy for the long-distance flight.
Weight change of calidris canutus before and after migration | photo taken by Cornell Lab
The most endangered migratory bird: less than 100 on earth
You might have never heard about Sterna Bernsteini and you might never see one in your whole life. Currently, it’s likely that there are only less than 100 Sterna Bernsteini still alive on earth. Scientists once thought that this kind of birth might have disappeared on earth due to rapid industrialization and the accompanying loss habitats and the behavior of picking bird eggs among people.
Sterna Bernsteini | photo taken by Adrian Wojcik
The coastal wetlands in China are important habitats for numerous migratory waterbirds. Three of the nine global routes for bird migration go through China. Among them, East Asian - Australasian Flyway is mostly severely disrupted and damaged by people. As a result, at least 27 of the waterbirds using this migrating route have become threatened species in the world. Among them, the global threatened species with coastal wetlands in China as primary habitats have reached 24.
Each year, millions of migratory birds would fly through coastal wetlands in China. They would stop, feed and refuel here and then keep flying to their destination far away. This grand scene, however, is now facing severe challenge because of the sharp decrease of wetland area and amount of migratory birds.
We are on the move
Lao Niu Foundation, in cooperation with the Paulson Institute, Performance Office of the People's Republic of China Convention on International Wetlands Institute of Geographic Sciences, Natural Resources Research, CAS, and other scientific research institutions, conducted strategic research, protective network construction, pilot demonstration project and capacity building.
In October 2015, Lao Niu Foundation cooperated with the Paulson Institute, Performance Office of the People's Republic of China Convention on International Wetlands, Institute of Geographic Sciences, Natural Resources Research, CAS, and other institutions and released the results of the project “Blueprint of Coastal Wetland Conservation and Management in China” (“Blueprint Project” for short), which confirmed 11 important migratory bird habitats in urgent need of protection and 180 key protection areas recommended to be included in the range of the red lines for ecological protection and provided a serious actionable policy suggestions for decision-makers. On July 25, 2018, China State Council printed and distributed Notification on Strengthening Coastal Wetland Conservation and Strict Control of Sea Reclamation. The Notification further improved the strength of the policy measures for the control of seal reclamation formerly issued by State Oceanic Administration in January 2018 and confirmed the results of the “Blueprint Project”.
In June 2018, Lao Niu Foundation cooperated with the Paulson Institute and Institute of Geographic Sciences, Natural Resources Research, CAS, and launched “China Coastal Water Birds and their Habitats Dataset Project” (China-eBird), which uses big data to evaluate the current status of the habitats for coastal waterbirds in China and provides scientific support to the protection of waterbirds and their habitats.
In September 2018, Lao Niu Foundation, the Paulson Institute and Shenzhen Mangrove Foundation launched a new program for wetland protection and education and formulated the plan to set the standards for the establishment and operation of China Wetland Center and build 3-5 demonstration sites for coastal wetland education center within 3 years, so as to improve the awareness of wetland protection among the public.