World Migratory Bird Day 2019

Migratory Birds and Plastic Pollution


The Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and the African Eurasian Waterbird Agreement along with Environment for the Americas (EFTA) have joined forces to strengthen global recognition and appreciation of migratory birds and to highlight the urgent need for their conservation. In 2019, World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) will have two peak campaign days in May and October. The campaign’s partners are calling for people to celebrate migratory birds along all major flyways and organize events preferably on the second Saturday in May and in October but also on other dates if local circumstances so dictate. We invite bird lovers across the world to organize communal bird walks, educational presentations, festivals, art shows, craft stations, bird counts, photography competitions, workshops, fundraising activities and more.



The 2019 Theme: Migratory Birds and Plastic Pollution

Nowadays, plastic is one of the most widely used materials in the world. With an annual production of more than 300m tonnes, it has become a part of our everyday life. However, plastic once discarded remains in the environment for between 70 and 400 years depending on its type.

It causes serious threats to migratory species and the ecosystems they depend on across the world. This also includes the marine environment and the lives and health of migratory waterbirds. With the theme “Migratory Birds and Plastic Pollution”, World Migratory Bird Day 2019 will put the spotlight on the impact of plastic pollution on migratory birds and their habitats. There are different ways how plastic pollution can affect migratory birds, and here are just a few:


Building nests

Waterbirds can be ensnared, either accidentally or when they investigate plastic items out of curiosity. When entangled, their movements and ability to feed are restricted. Ingestion and entanglement in plastic debris are major causes of mortality among birds.

Entanglement is more common among birds than ingestion. However, entanglement affects individuals rather than large proportions of populations. Risks of entanglement varies among species, especially Northern Gannets and Auks are at risk. The greatest danger of entanglement by birds is associated with fishing lines and six-pack plastic rings that hold aluminum cans together. Thirty-one per cent of the 254 AEWA-listed waterbird species are reported to be entangled in plastic debris.



Migratory birds tend to collect plastic items as nesting material that can lead to entanglement. Compared to ingestion and entanglement in plastic debris, the use of plastics as nest material is less harmful. About 8 per cent of the 254 species are entangled in plastics used in nest construction. Gannets, cormorants and gulls are more prone to use plastics for their nests.



Ingestion occurs when bird mistake plastic items for food and feed selectively on plastic fragments. When swallowed, it can lead to a blockage of the intestinal tract of the bird, causing malnutrition and starvation, resulting frequently in long-lasting suffering and even death. Some seabirds mistakenly feed their young with plastic pieces until the chicks die with a stomach full of litter.

Out of 312 bird species, 36 per cent are observed to be affected by plastic ingestion. It is primarily attributed to their feeding habits, but plastic items can also be conveyed through the gut of their prey or when feeding their chicks. Current trend is ingestion of microplastics (<1 mm) and of microfibers that the migratory bird prey often contains.

The impact of plastic pollution has been studied since the 1960s. Nevertheless, further research should be conducted to better assess the extent of this problem.

The international community needs to take urgent action to mitigate unnecessary injuries and mortality of migratory birds due to plastic pollution. World Migratory Bird Day 2019 is a unique chance to join efforts to address one of the most urgent challenges to conserving migratory birds.



Plastics and Waterbirds: Incidence and Impacts

CMS Res. 12.20 Management of Marine Debris

Get Involved

Are you an individual or an organization willing to participate in a way or another in World Migratory Bird Day?
Are you planning to organize an event?
Are you interested in learning more about these birds, the challenges they face and the need for their conservation?
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WMBD 2018 and before

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We look forward to celebrating migratory birds with you!