8 May 2021 is Global Birding Day – a worldwide initiative to go out and record as many species as possible across the planet. This day is centred on raising awareness for migratory birds and their threats, conservation and fascinating life history patterns. In South Africa, we have over 100 migratory bird species that travel to South Africa during our summer months (September to April) and then leave north to either Central Africa, known as Intra-African Migrants, or to Europe and mainland Asia – known as Palaearctic migrants. South Africa has recorded 44 Palearctic migrant species (Europe, Asia, northern Africa and the northern and central parts of the Arabian Peninsula) and 35 Intra-African migrant species.

Migratory birds travel very long distances on their annual journeys, sometimes even tens of thousands of kilometres. The survival of migratory birds depends on the availability of well-connected networks or chains of habitats along their migration routes, which are used by birds for refuelling. It is not only the breeding and wintering sites that are important, as these feeding and resting sites also fulfil important roles in the biology of migratory birds. Besides the loss of habitat across their long journeys, migratory birds are threatened by collisions with powerlines and linear infrastructures such as windows, roads and fences, they are actively hunted and killed for sport and food, and they are poisoned by pesticides and other toxic chemicals.

Organisations like BirdLife South Africa and the BirdLife International Partnership are working together to protect our migratory birds along the East Atlantic Flyway which runs from the west coast of South Africa north towards western Europe and the United Kingdom where their partner, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), is located. Together they are working to protect our migratory birds and their habitat for the safety and preservation of all biodiversity by educating the public in schools, communities and farming networks to manage their properties in a safe and sustainable manner and to help to champion bird conservation in their different areas.

Play your part on Global Birding Day and see how many birds you can spot, you can submit your data via the eBird portal and contribute towards the world’s biggest day in birding. To find out more about the event visit https://globalbirding.org/home

For more information on BirdLife South Africa and their conservation work to protect South Africa’s birds and habitats please visit www.birdlife.org.za