International Cooperation

Birds Know No Borders

In 2016, the U.S. and our conservation partners in Canada and Mexico celebrated the centennial of the foundational treaty recognizing the international commitment to protect and conserve migratory birds. The signing of the Migratory Bird Treaty was the first step toward more than a century of cooperation among nations for birds.

On Aug. 16, 1916, with the signing of the  Migratory Bird Treaty(446.6KB), the United States and Great Britain (on behalf of Canada) adopted a uniform system of protection for nearly all migratory bird species that inhabit - and often migrate between - the United States and Canada.

In 1918, the United States signed the Migratory Bird Treaty Act, the domestic legislation that formally implements the U.S. commitment to the 1916 treaty and three subsequent international conventions, with  Mexico (1936)(410.8KB),  Japan (1972)(47.9KB) and  Russia (1976)(348.3KB) for the protection of migratory birds that travel among and inhabit these nations. In addition to these bilateral treaties,  other agreements(1MB) focus on bird conservation at larger scales, such as hemisphere-wide.

National and international cooperation under the four treaties is essential for conserving and protecting the world's migratory birds. Flying over long distances involves the crossing many international borders and entering different political areas with varying environmental policies and conservation measures. The Service and our partners work to coordinate and galvanize efforts to protect and conserve migratory birds for present and future generations.

International cooperation among governments, NGOs and other stakeholders is required along the entire flyway and throughout the entire life cycle of a species to share knowledge and to coordinate conservation efforts.

Why Conserve Migratory Birds

Migratory birds connect people to nature and provide multiple benefits – ecological, economic, aesthetic and recreational – to humans and the natural environment. Birds also connect nations and even continents through migration, providing opportunities for international understanding and collaboration.

Migratory birds are good indicators of environmental health because they are so visible and relatively easy to study, and they are sensitive to environmental contaminants and can provide early warning of oncoming environmental issues.

Birds and people both rely on healthy habitats (e.g. oceans, grasslands and forests) for survival and wellbeing. The habitats they need are also valuable to people, and ensuring healthy habitats for birds provides improved water quality, coastal buffering, ground water recharge, flood control, erosion protection and many other benefits to human society.

Many bird species migrate as part of their life cycles. Migration is a perilous journey that involves a wide range of threats, many of which are caused by humans. Habitat loss due to urban development, agriculture and other human activities is the main threat to migrating birds.

Migratory birds depend on suitable breeding and wintering grounds and stopover sites where they can rest and feed along their migratory routes. The loss of any sites used by the birds during their annual life cycle could have a dramatic impact on their chances of survival.

Conservation works. Where we have invested in healthy habitats, birds are doing well. Healthy birds mean healthy forests, wetlands, grasslands, shorelines and oceans. By conserving birds we conserve our American landscapes and the economies and ways of life that depend on them; from farmers and ranchers to outdoor recreationists to children, we all benefit when birds thrive.

Economic and Societal Significance of Birds and Bird Conservation

Birds and bird-related activities have a significant impact on the U.S. economy. When people purchase bird food and bird feeding equipment, hotel accommodations, and travel and tour tickets to go birding, bird hunting, or to participate in birding festivals, they help create thousands of jobs and generate millions of dollars in tax revenue.

Waterfowl hunters, bird watchers and other outdoor enthusiasts make significant contributions to conservation by purchasing Federal Duck Stamps. 98 percent of the sale price of the Federal Duck Stamp is used to acquire wetlands habitat for protection in the  National Wildlife Refuge System. These habitats benefit waterfowl and many other bird species.

Since 1934, $950 million in Duck Stamp revenue has helped to acquire and protect nearly 6 million acres of habitat.

Promoting abundant sustainable bird populations and healthy habitats also affords significant benefits to human society. Migratory birds contribute important environmental benefits, including pollination, disease and pest control, carrion disposal and seed dispersal.

Birds have been estimated to consume 98 percent of certain insect pests, enhancing agricultural production and reducing the need for toxic pesticides. Birds  pollinate many plant species, particularly flowers.

Get Involved!

No matter where you live, you can help birds and the places they depend on. Learn more and get involved in bird conservation today.

Last Updated: November 20, 2017