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International Migratory Bird Day 2003: A Call to Action to Protect Migratory Birds and Their Habitats


May 6, 2003

Tom MacKenzie, 404-679-7291

Opinion-Editorial from Sam D. Hamilton, Southeast Regional Director, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

This is a very special year to celebrate migratory bird conservation in the Southeastern United States. As we approach International Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 10, we are reminded that 100 years ago President Theodore Roosevelt established the first National Wildlife Refuge as a safe haven for migratory birds at Pelican Island in Sebastian, Florida. President Roosevelt was astonished by the rapid decline of migratory birds as these feathered friends were forsaken--all in the name of fashion. Birds that once flew freely, singing the arrival of spring, were now transformed into lifeless fashion accessories; adornments for women’s hats..

As we recognize International Migratory Bird Day and continue to celebrate the Centennial of the National Wildlife Refuge System, threats such as loss of wetlands, urbanization, pesticide poisoning, oil spills, power line electrocutions and collisions with buildings continue to take their toll on migratory bird populations. Organizations such as The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, The Audubon Society, American Bird Conservancy, Partners in Flight, The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, parks, and zoos work to ensure future generations will be able to enjoy the melodious tune of a song bird.

In 1993, International Migratory Bird Day was created to focus public attention on the need for action to conserve birds and their habitats. International Migratory Bird Day is an annual celebration of one of the most important and spectacular events in the life of a migratory bird - - its journey between summer and winter homes. Today, International Migratory Bird Day is recognized in Canada, the U.S., Mexico, and Central America. People throughout these countries will join forces on May 10, to celebrate birds, as well as educate others through experiences such as bird festivals and walks, educational activities, and informative publications.

This year’s International Migratory Bird Day theme: Birds - Catalysts for Conservation - recognizes birds and their ability to inspire individuals to care about the environment and the plight birds face as they make their long journey from nesting grounds in North America to their non-breeding destination in the Southern United States, South and Central America, Mexico and the Caribbean.

People everywhere will be celebrating the catalysts for conservation’s journey this International Migratory Bird Day. There are several ways you can join in helping migratory birds such as:
  • Take notice of the birds around you.
  • Participate on a bird walk.
  • Share the marvels of birds with others.
  • Build and maintain a bird feeder or bird house.
  • Keep your cat indoors–helps cat and birds.
  • Reduce your use of pesticides in yard and garden.
  • Drink bird-friendly, shade-grown coffee.
  • Volunteer at a National Wildlife Refuge. Go to or to find a refuge near you.
  • Obtain educational materials about migratory birds at or call 866/334-3330.
  • Attend or host an International Migratory Bird Day festival. Go to and click on “Events/Festivals” to learn about an event near you.

I hope you will join me on Saturday, May 10, to celebrate International Migratory Bird Day and the legacy that Teddy Roosevelt began 100 years ago when he established the first National Wildlife Refuge.

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

*EDITORS AND JOURNALISTS: For a photograph of Sam Hamilton, please go to and click on the photo. Please credit photo to Tom MacKenzie, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

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Atlanta, GA 30345
Phone: 404/679-7289 Fax: 404/679-7286

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