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Photo: Catherine Lehmann (UNEP/AEWA)

World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) was born in 2006 and was a tremendous success! More than 46 Countries worldwide celebrated the phenomenon of migrating birds and showed that bird migration is of global importance! However, it was a mammoth task to launch such an event.

The first people to have the idea of creating a day for migrating birds were the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center and the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology. They initiated the International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) in 1993, which encourages bird festivals and education programmes across the United States and other parts of the Americas. Although this day was successfully celebrated in the western hemisphere, something similar was missing in the rest of the world.

On the occasion of its 10th anniversary in 2005, the African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement (UNEP/AEWA) celebrated the Migratory Waterbird Days (MWD) which were held in Africa, Europe and parts of Asia. As this event was well received in the AEWA region, the idea arose to broaden the scope into a commemorative day which celebrates the phenomenon of migration and all migrating birds on a global scale.

When the AEWA Executive Secretary Bert Lenten met Kuki Gallmann, a famous novelist, in Kenya, she showed great interest in cooperating to help launch such an event. At the time, migratory birds were receiving very negative media coverage as a result of them being falsely believed to be the main cause for the spread of Avian Influenza around the world. So the idea arose to use the first World Migratory Bird Day to counter some of the negative and often unbalanced publicity migratory birds were receiving at the peak of the Avian Influenza discussion. For this reason the theme of WMBD 2006 became: “Migratory birds need our support now!”

The first WMBD was launched on the weekend of 8-9 April 2006. The central opening event ‘WINGS’ took place at Ms. Gallmann’s famous wildlife reserve, ‘Ole Ari Nyiro’ in Laikipia, Kenya. The show was inspired by the phenomenon of bird migration and was attended by a number of international personalities from the worlds of art, business and conservation.

At the same time, national authorities and NGOs worldwide, in particular BirdLife International and its partners, encouraged individuals and organisations around the world to celebrate WMBD 2006 and to incorporate the WMBD theme into their awareness-raising programmes and festivals.

In 2007, as opposed to 2006, no central Word Migratory Bird Day event took place. Instead WMBD 2007 encouraged bird enthusiasts all over the world to take part in organising local bird educational events. With the theme “Migratory Birds in a changing climate”, WMBD 2007 focused international attention on the plight of migratory birds and highlighted the issues responsible for their global declines.

The AEWA Secretariat hopes that in 2008 the World Migratory Bird Day initiative will receive as much assistance and support as it did in its first two years! A third successive successful event will establish WMBD as a self-sustaining and global festival for migratory birds in the future!

So join the global effort and help celebrate WMBD again in 2008! Plan a new, or adapt an existing bird related event in your country on 10-11 May 2008 and give it a WMBD context. Help raise awareness of migratory birds as ambassadors for biodiversity and register your event now!