Protecting migrating birds

Feathered globetrotters under fire

© Davorka Kitonic
Grey Herons in the Neretva Delta in Croatia. © Davorka Kitonic

Always to be where living conditions are best: this is a luxury that only those with wings can afford. In the course of evolution many bird species have managed to make optimum use of the advantages to found in different climatic regions. Some also settled in regions in the far North – where the long summer days offer optimum conditions but only for a few months in the year, so they winter further south. Star among the long distance travellers is the Arctic Tern which travels back and forth between its breeding grounds in the Arctic to wintering places in the Antarctic. To take advantage of the length of polar days at both poles in its search for food and for the breeding period this bird takes on a journey of 30 000 to 40 000 kilometres, almost circumnavigating the world in the process.

What migratory routes are there?

On their flight from North and Central Europe to Africa migrating birds mainly take three routes: the Western route via Gibraltar is certainly the best known. This is the route taken by most birds flying from breeding grounds in Great Britain, many from mud flats of the Dutch and German Wattenmeer and also from Scandinavia. The Eastern route leads across Eastern Europe (the Baltic, Belorussia, the Ukraine, Romania, Bulgaria) into Turkey, over the Bosphorus and on over the Middle East to reach Africa.The third route is often forgotten. It is known as the Central European migration route or the Adriatic Flyway. This route runs parallel to the Eastern route in Siberia and Northern Europe but later bears westward from Poland and Hungary over the Balkans and on over the Adriatic Sea, Southern Italy, Sicily and Malta to Africa. Many water birds from Central Europe, but also from North and East Europe and even Asia take this migration route to reach the Sahel region.

What are the threats to migrating birds in Europe?

The exertions of migration can only be mastered if the birds have a network of safe resting places along their route where they can find sufficient food and recover their strength. However with the ongoing destruction of important bird habitats precisely such resting places have become rare. Bird hunting drives exhausted birds from the last remaining wetland areas. Anyone who has ever tried to cover a thousand kilometres by car without stopping for petrol or rest knows it is impossible. But this is precisely the scenario to which the migrating birds are frequently exposed on their way between their breeding grounds and wintering places each year.

Where exactly is EuroNatur working for the protection of migrating birds?

To protect migrating birds not only at their breeding grounds but also to secure their wintering and resting places is one of the most important goals of EuroNatur's bird protection projects. The protection of eagles, vultures, White storks, cranes, pelicans, other migrating birds and their habitats has been on the programme of the Foundation ever since its creation. Our particular focusses are ecologically precious wetlands on the Balkan peninsula (among others on the Eastern Adriatic in the countries along the Adriatic Flyway and along the Balkan Green Belt, the Narew region in the Northeast of Poland and the Greek island of Tilos.

What actions are EuroNatur and its partners taking?

  • Creating valuable databases: Precise knowledge of the flora and fauna of precious bird habitats forms the basis for the designation of places as conservation areas..
  • Preserving existing habitats: We are campaigning for the designation of protection areas and developing effective protection measures in order to preserve the habitats of migrating birds for the long term and across national borders.
  • Keeping an eye bird populations: Making regular population counts in important resting places allows us to counteract negative developments in good time and makes it possible to check on the success of protection measures.
  • Fighting bird hunting: By weaving an ever closer network of experts and trained bird watchers we are creating the preconditions for protecting migrating birds from bird hunters.
  • Lobbying at the political level: We are working at EU level to improve the legal framework conditions for the protection of migrating birds above all along the Adriatic Flyway and to ensure that laws are put into practice.
  • Raising public awareness: In order to win the acceptance and support of the local population for the protection measures in the various countries and to help them sense the value of their ecological treasures we carry out intensive educational outreach programmes.
  • Creating livelihood perspectives – for Man and Nature: To achieve lasting success in nature conservation measures EuroNatur and its partners work in close cooperation with the local population on concepts for the sustainable development of the regions concerned. A particularly promising perspective is that of Nature tourism as an attractive alternative to bird hunting and the destruction of habitats.

Interview with US best selling author Jonathan Franzen about bird hunting on the balkans

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EuroNatur projects for the protection of migratory birds in Europe

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Have a look at the EuroNatur Travel Guide "Adriatic East Coast"

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Video "Adriatic Flyway" on youtube

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