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The African-Eurasian Flyway

Birds that migrate through the African-Eurasian Flyway can be divided in three main groups: Waterbirds, Landbirds and Birds of Prey (Raptors). Throughout their migration, these birds are facing various threats, from habitat loss to illegal killing, most of them being anthropogenic such as pollution.

Conserving migrant birds is a global challenge that is addressed by the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS), an environmental treaty under the aegis of the UN Environment. CMS brings together countries and the wider international conservation community to achieve coordinated conservation and management of migratory animals (amongst other birds) throughout their entire distribution ranges.

To promote migratory bird conservation effectively, there are three instruments within the CMS Family that relate to the three groups of birds, and that address the specific threats that vary somewhat for each taxonomic groups.


Waterbirds are species ecologically dependent on wetlands for at least part of their annual cycle, including many species of divers, grebes, pelicans, cormorants, herons, storks, rails, ibises, spoonbills, flamingos, ducks, swans, geese, cranes, shorebirds, gulls, terns, tropic birds, auks, frigate birds and even the African penguin. The main threats faced by waterbirds are habitat loss, illegal killing, collisions with aerial structures and electrocution by power lines. Some soaring waterbirds such as storks concentrate during sea crossing at bottleneck areas - such as at the Strait of Gibraltar, the Bosphorus, etc.

The Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds (AEWA) is an independent intergovernmental Treaty dedicated to the conservation of migratory waterbirds and their habitats across 119 Range States in Africa, Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, Greenland and the Canadian Archipelago.

All 255 AEWA species cross international boundaries during their migrations and require good quality habitat for breeding as well as a network of suitable sites to support their annual journeys. International cooperation across their entire migratory range is therefore essential for the conservation and management of migratory waterbird populations and the habitats on which they depend. Action plans for endangered species are one of the main tools to ensure the future of those species.



Birds of Prey

Birds of Prey, commonly called raptors, include groups such as vultures, eagles, hawks and falcons.  These predatory species are at the top of the food chain and act as “sentinel species” to indicate the levels of prey populations and indeed the overall health of the ecosystem.  Many species are at high risk of human-induced threats such as habitat loss and degradation, illegal shooting and poisoning, and collisions with man-made structures and electrocution by power lines. Many migratory raptors are particularly at risk during migration because they gather to form major concentrations and move in large groups along their flyways, for example, at narrow land bridges or sea crossings, which can increase the potential impact of certain threats.

The CMS Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MOU) aims to promote internationally coordinated actions to achieve and maintain the favourable conservation status of migratory birds of prey throughout their range in the African-Eurasian region, and to reverse their decline when and where appropriate.

The Raptors MOU covers 93 species of birds of prey and owls occurring in 132 Range States in Africa, Europe and Asia.



Migratory Landbirds include common and familiar species that breed in Europe and Asia and undertake long migrations to wintering areas in Africa.  Species such as the Common Cuckoo, the Turtle Dove, swallows and songbirds are included in this group.

Long-term datasets show that African-Eurasian landbirds are declining rapidly. The species that breed on agricultural and farmland areas and have to cross the Sahara to winter in open savannahs are most affected. As their complex annual cycle, long-distance migrations and dependence on different sites at different times expose them to multiple threats, migrant birds are likely to be more susceptible to environmental change than resident ones.

Experts consider that changing land-use, driven by rapid demographic expansion in Africa, is the most important factor affecting African-Eurasian landbirds across the breeding and non-breeding grounds. Landbirds do not generally concentrate together but disperse in suitable habitats, which makes their conservation even more challenging. Hence a broad landscape approach is needed for their conservation. Unsustainable taking and climate change are additional threats.

Since intergovernmental cooperation is essential to conserve migratory landbirds effectively along their flyways, the CMS Parties have adopted an African-Eurasian Migratory Landbirds Action Plan (AEMLAP) and established a working group to that effect. The Action Plan covers 34 globally threatened species with declining global population trends.

The AEMLAP complements the work of AEWA and the CMS Raptors MOU to maintain the African-Eurasian migratory bird species in a favourable conservation status.