“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature—the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after the winter...” –Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson
Rachel Carson was right. And one of the most important and spectacular of those “repeated refrains” in the Americas is taking place right now - bird migration.
Each year for more than 20 years now, International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) has celebrated birds. Spring is in full swing now, and many of us are enjoying the sounds and colors of birds as they migrate to and through our cities and over our landscapes.
Some migratory birds travel great distances. The Ruby-throated Hummingbirds that visit my yard in Maryland each summer travel 500 non-stop miles across the Gulf of Mexico from their wintering grounds to find nesting areas as far north as Maine and Canada. The Arctic Tern travels even farther, making an annual round-trip of almost 20,000 miles from the Arctic breeding grounds to Antarctic seas.
This year IMBD celebrates the full life cycle of birds. The theme covers all aspects of a migratory bird’s life, from migrating to breeding and raising young. Most importantly, it addresses the need for conservation throughout a bird’s life cycle. Each piece of the life cycle puzzle is vital to the species survival.
IMBD officially takes place on the second Saturday in May in the United States and Canada (May 11), and in October in Mexico, Central America, South America and the Caribbean. But IMBD is really celebrated almost year-round. Migratory bird conservation requires our participation every month of the year.
Habitat conditions in one season may affect the survival and nesting success of birds in another. Winter habitats are just as important as nesting sites, and their quality influences nesting success. Stopover sites, the places where birds rest and refuel during migration, are also critical. Sandy beaches, forests, grasslands and other habitats provide refuge and rest for birds flying long distances.
Along every leg of the journey and at non-breeding and breeding sites birds face threats from introduced predators to collisions with buildings, communication towers and wind turbines, to poisoning from pesticides and other chemicals, and more, including the rising threat of global climate change.
Our actions to preserve birds are linked to the actions of others around the globe, like the ripple effects of a water drop. Public awareness and concern are crucial components of migratory bird conservation. Across the Americas IMBD events are providing great ways for people to get involved. I hope you find an event to celebrate this spring (or this fall.) Visit http://www.fws.gov/birds/imbd/ to find out more about IMBD and how you can celebrate birds. And keep an eye out for the hummingbirds!