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International Migratory Bird Day 2002: A Call to Action to Preserve Bird Habitats


May 1, 2002

Jim Rothschild, 404/679-7291

Milder breezes and trees and flowers blooming are among the signs of spring we all enjoy. Yet, one of the most common sights of spring -- migratory birds -- are declining in population and need our help to preserve and provide their habitat. International Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 11, 2002, is both a celebration and a call to action.

The celebration recognizes the nearly 350 species of migratory birds that journey annually between nesting habitats in North America and non-breeding areas in the southern United States, South and Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean. The call to action is a task we face to safeguard these birds’ remaining habitat and create new areas.

Two-thirds of the world’s rivers have been altered or regulated, and over half of the wetlands in the United States have been drained or filled since the time of European settlement. This loss of habitat worldwide forces birds to face an increasingly treacherous migration each year. Adequate habitat for birds includes food, water, cover, and space. However, due to an expanding number of threats which are increasing in intensity -- urbanization, declining forests, agricultural development, oil pits, power lines, and cellular towers -- habitat meeting all of the essential requirements for birds is harder to find. For example, about 214,000 acres of the world’s rain forests are lost every day.

We all can help protect our bird populations and their remaining habitat, from the global solution of establishing important bird areas to the citizen’s creation of backyard habitat. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, and Partners In Flight, which created International Migratory Bird Day, are among the many partners working to help. Established in 1993, International Migratory Bird Day is now being celebrated in the U.S., Canada, Mexico and Central America. Bird festivals, bird walks, and educational programs are among the many ways people are recognizing the birds’ spring migration from their winter to their summer habitat. More than 500,000 people annually participate in Migratory Bird Day activities on the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s National Wildlife Refuges and elsewhere. The theme for this year’s Migratory Bird Day focuses on recognizing, establishing and conserving Important Bird Areas.

Important Bird Area programs are being established worldwide to identify and create a network of essential sites for breeding, wintering, or migrating birds. Important Bird Areas can be on public or private land; but, the programs focus on those areas that meet at least one of the following requirements: (1) provide habitat for endangered or threatened species; (2) provide habitat for restricted range species that are vulnerable because of their limited distribution; (3) provide habitat for species that are vulnerable because their populations are concentrated within a specialized habitat type or biome; and/or (4) provide habitat for a related group of species (shorebirds, waterfowl, raptors) that are vulnerable because they congregate in large numbers. Sites already designated as Important Bird Areas in the U.S. include National Wildlife Refuges, National Parks, National Forests, state lands, conservation organization habitats, and private lands.

A total of 43 of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s more than 540 National Wildlife Refuges (NWR) nationwide were among the first 100 globally important bird areas to be designated by the American Bird Conservancy. Among them were seven refuges in the Southeast including Alligator NWR in Manteo, North Carolina; Breton NWR in Slidell, Louisiana; Carolina Sandhills NWR in McBee, South Carolina; Felsenthal NWR in Crossett, Arkansas; Merritt Island NWRM in Titusville, Florida; Mississippi Sandhill Crane NWR in Gautier, Mississippi, and White River NWR in DeWitt, Arkansas. It is important to note in this 99th anniversary of the Service’s National Wildlife Refuge System, that over 200 refuges, including the first one, Pelican Island NWR in Florida, were established to protect migratory birds.

To learn more about Important Bird Area programs, please visit the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s website at

It’s a joy to see and hear birds like the ruby throated hummingbird, the scarlet tanager, the whip-poor-will, the blue jay, or the robin, in the wilderness or in our own backyards. Private citizens share responsibility for bird conservation. There are several actions we can all take:

  • Establish backyard habitat for birds. Visit the website to find out how.
  • Volunteer at a National Wildlife Refuge.
  • Build or maintain a bird feeder or bird house.
  • Become involved in community land use planning.
  • Go on a bird–watching walk.
  • Reduce the use of pesticides in your yard or garden.
  • Drink bird-friendly, shade-grown coffee. For more information, visit
  • Participate in a bird count or study.
  • Keep your cat indoors, whenever possible.
  • Obtain educational material about migratory birds. Visit or call 866/334-3330.
Whether it is on a global, national, or local level, we all have a stake in preserving one of our most beautiful and richest natural resources. What would our surroundings be like if all the birds were gone?

On International Migratory Bird Day, May 11, will you join me in a call to action?

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

NOTE: You can view our releases or subscribe to receive them -- via e-mail -- at the Service's Southeast Regional home page at Our national home page is at:

Atlanta, GA 30345

Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

2001 News Releases

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