May 2, 1999
Chris Tollefson 202-208-5634

INTERNATIONAL MIGRATORY BIRD DAY HIGHLIGHTS BIRDS'
CONTRIBUTIONS TO QUALITY OF LIFE

Across the Western hemisphere this spring, millions of birds are winging their way north to nesting areas in Canada and the United States after wintering in warmer climates. As this timeless migration cycle continues, hundreds of birding events across the country will celebrate migratory birds and their contribution to the human and natural world on Saturday, May 8, the 7th Annual International Migratory Bird Day.

International Migratory Bird Day offers everyone a chance to learn more about migratory birds and to appreciate birds' roles in a healthy environment.

"Birds are a part of nature that we all share. Whether you live on a farm in the rural Midwest or in a large urban apartment building, you're likely to encounter birds every day," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "By taking steps to conserve birds and their habitat, we can also make our communities better places to live."

Clark noted that habitat that attracts birds to a community--parks, greenways, and tree-lined streets and neighborhoods--also contributes to the human quality of life.

Birding festivals will be held May 8 at dozens of national wildlife refuges, national parks, and national forests as well as city and state parks, National Audubon sanctuaries and other nature reserves. Many of these events can be found in a registry on the International Migratory Bird Day web site at <http://www.americanbirding.org/imbdgen.htm>. Additional information on migratory bird management issues can be found on the Service's home page at <http://www.fws.gov>.

Birds range across watersheds and entire ecosystems, providing an excellent measure of the overall health of the environment. But because birds also migrate across multiple political boundaries, protecting them and the habitats that support them must be a cooperative effort that involves multiple jurisdictions and interests.

Recognizing the need to take cooperative action, Partners in Flight, an international coalition that includes the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, other Federal and state wildlife agencies, conservation groups, academic institutions, and corporations, has dedicated itself to reversing declines in migratory bird populations. International Migratory Bird Day is a featured event of Partners in Flight.

Though an international effort to protect migratory birds has made progress during the past several decades, serious challenges remain. Many species are in decline due to environmental contaminants; habitat loss; collisions with tall buildings, communications towers, powerlines, and other structures; and predation from domestic cats.

During the past 30 years, populations of dozens of neotropical migratory birds and others have declined at rates exceeding 2 percent per year. These losses are not restricted to just one or two groups; warblers, tanagers, sparrows, shorebirds, seabirds, raptors, and wading birds all have been affected.

Homeowners can make their property safer and more attractive for birds by reducing and carefully monitoring the pesticides they apply to lawns and shrubs, by planting trees and bushes that provide habitat and natural food, and by keeping cats indoors whenever possible and locating bird feeders away from heavy cover so that cats cannot surprise unsuspecting birds. Other suggestions and helpful tips can be found on the International Migratory Bird Day web site or on the Service home page.

Aside from their environmental importance, bird-related activities are also some of America's most popular pastimes. In fact, bird watching is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the U.S., outpacing golf and rivaling gardening in terms of the number of participants. In 1996, more than 63 million people went bird watching, fed birds, or took trips to watch birds and other wildlife. They directly spent an estimated $29 billion on those activities, generating almost $85 billion in related economic activity, creating more than 1 million jobs, and producing $5.2 billion in Federal and state tax revenues.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting, and enhancing fish and wildlife and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System comprised of more than 500 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands, and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries and 78 ecological services field stations. The agency enforces Federal wildlife laws, administers the Endangered Species Act, manages migratory bird populations, restores nationally significant fisheries, conserves and restores wildlife habitat such as wetlands, and helps foreign governments with their conservation efforts. It also oversees the Federal Aid program that distributes hundreds of millions of dollars in excise taxes on fishing and hunting equipment to state fish and wildlife agencies.


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