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International Migratory Bird Day Opinion-Editorial - May 13, 1999

Sam D. Hamilton,Southeast Regional Director U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Atlanta, GA


May 11, 2000 Contact: Tom MacKenzie 404/ 679-7291


In the month of May, hundreds of thousands of migratory birds take wing, returning to their breeding grounds, passing through the Southeast. This month, you may catch a glimpse of warblers, shorebirds and thrushes, to name but a few.

What you won't see are the many challenges that migratory birds face on their annual journey. So many, in fact, that the second Saturday in May is set aside each year as International Migratory Bird Day, to focus attention on this beautiful and fragile resource.

For the vast majority of people, birds represent their sole everyday contact with wildlife. Birds connect all of us, from city dwellers to suburbanites to rural farmers, with the natural world. Migratory birds are an excellent indicator of the overall health of an ecosystem. When bird species are declining, we should be concerned. Habitat that benefits birds -- parks, greenways and wetlands -- also contribute to the quality of the human environment.

Migratory birds provide significant economic benefits. An estimated 63 million Americans participate in birdwatching, generating more than $20 billion annually. In fact, birdwatching is one of the fastest growing recreational activities in the United States, outpacing golf and rivaling gardening in terms of numbers of participants.

Birdwatchers spend an average of $100 million in each state, directly supporting more than 200,000 jobs and generating $1 billion in State and Federal taxes.

The southeastern United States is of critical importance to bird conservation. We not only provide essential, year-round habitat for a large number of species, we also host migrating flocks. More than 300 species of birds regularly visit or live in the Southeast Region. This is close to half of all bird species found in North America north of Mexico. The vast majority are nongame, migratory species. The Southeast supports 60% of all migratory bird species -- neotropical migrants-- that breed in North America and migrate to and from the tropics during winter. Many bird species are in decline due to habitat loss, collision with man-made objects and predation from domestic animals. To survive, they must cross boundaries of eco-systems, states, and nations, so protecting them must be a cooperative effort.

On May 13, take a few minutes to think what this country would be like without the incredible beauty and the rich biodiversity that birds provide. Use this as a chance to learn about the simple things you can do to be a good wildlife manager.

There are many ways you can contribute to bird conservation:

  • Make your community bird-friendly by getting involved in community planning and taking part in citizen research.
  • Provide habitat for birds when landscaping your yard by using native (especially fruit-bearing) plants.
  • Insist on shade-grown coffee that provides more habitat for migratory birds so they survive to return and breed in our region. You can get more information on this from the Smithsonian Museum Migratory Bird Center at their web site: http://www.si.edu/smbc/imbd.htm
  • Avoid using pesticides.
  • Keep your cats indoors.

What you do does make a difference. If you need proof, just look at the theme of this year's International Migratory Bird Day: the remarkable recovery of the peregrine falcon. For a variety of interesting information and useful links, check out our web site at: http://birds.fws.gov/imbd.html

Together we can help protect migratory birds for future generations to enjoy.


Sam. D. Hamilton

Southeast Regional Director

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is the principal Federal agency responsible for conserving, protecting and enhancing fish, wildlife and plants and their habitats for the continuing benefit of the American people. The Service manages the 93-million-acre National Wildlife Refuge System which encompasses more than 520 national wildlife refuges, thousands of small wetlands and other special management areas. It also operates 66 national fish hatcheries, 64 fishery resource offices 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.

NOTE: This news release and others can be viewed on either the Service's Southeast Regional home page on the Internet at http://southeast.fws.gov/news/2000/index.html or the national home page at: http://news.fws.gov/newsreleases

Release #: R00-017

2000 News Releases



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