Pretoria – South Africa’s Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment on Saturday, (13 May 2023), joined countries across the world in celebrating World Migratory Bird Day 2023.
“Water: Sustaining Bird Life” is the theme of this year’s World Migratory Bird Day campaigns.
Marked twice a year – in May and October – the awareness and education drives highlight the plight of migratory birds and the protection of their habitats.
The days also mark the peak migratory dates for birds returning to their breeding grounds in the Southern and Northern hemispheres.
Another aim is to draw attention to the ecological importance of these birds and the need for international cooperation to conserve them.
World Migratory Bird Day is organised by the United Nations Environment Programme’s Convention for the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds, both of which South Africa is party to.
Most migratory birds, which travel long distances to and from their wintering and breeding grounds, rely on aquatic ecosystems for their survival.
Environments such as inland and coastal wetlands, rivers, lakes, streams, marshes, and ponds serve as vital environments for feeding, drinking, breeding, nesting, and places to rest and refuel during their long journeys.
Unfortunately, aquatic ecosystems are becoming increasingly threatened around the world and so are the migratory birds that depend on them.
“The increasing human demand for water, as well as pollution and climate change, are having a direct impact on the availability of clean water and the conservation status of many migratory birds,” said the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment.
“It is, therefore, important that countries strengthen their actions to identify and protect these key water resources and aquatic ecosystems.”
The department added: “One of the key initiatives to improve the protection and management of wetlands in South Africa is the development and implementation of the National Wetland Management Framework, and the identification and designation of wetlands of international importance or Ramsar Sites, which are sites of global importance which provide habitat to rare and endangered waterbirds.
“South Africa currently has 29 Ramsar Sites and two of these Ramsar sites are habitats for the Iconic bird species, the White Winged Flufftail (Ingula Nature Reserve and Middelpunt Nature Reserve).
“South Africa is home to a number of migratory species such as divers, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks, rails, ibises, and spoonbills.”