World Migratory Bird Day is observed on the second Saturday in October. The accumulation of plastic has become a worldwide epidemic and a primary threat to birds across the globe. With an annual production of more than 300m tons, plastic is one of the most widely used materials in the world. What often escapes one’s attention is that the plastic is used for its main purpose for only a moment compared with its lifecycle of 20 to 500 years. Lightweight and designed to last, the discarded pieces are easily transported into ecosystems through the forces of nature causing serious threats to migratory species around the world.

Every year, World Migratory Bird Day presents an annual theme aiming to raise awareness of issues affecting migratory birds and to inspire people and organizations around the world to take measures for their conservation. This year’s theme − “Protect Birds: Be the Solution to Plastic Pollution!” − will put the spotlight on the negative impact of plastic pollution on migratory birds and their habitats.

Unfortunately, having wings does not help birds escape the threat of plastic. Birds with stomachs full of plastic entangled and smothered by plastic rings and nets are all too real consequences of the toll that plastic takes on wildlife. 

Plastic pollution

As we mentioned, plastic pollution is a serious threat for migratory birds. Birds are mistaking plastic pellets for fish eggs, small crabs and other prey, sometimes even feeding the deadly pellets to their young. Despite the fact that only 0.05 percent of plastic pieces from surface waters are pellets, they comprise about 70 percent of the plastic eaten by birds. These small plastic particles have been found in the stomachs of 63 of the world’s 250 species of birds.

Other major threats to birds

Birds face many threats to their survival in the wild. Like all animals, they are totally dependent on their environment for existence and are very sensitive to changes in the ecosystems. Below is a summary of a number of these threats.

Disease

Disease outbreak could be very devastating when migrating birds gather together. This can be even more detrimental when surviving birds carry the illness to either breeding grounds or densely populated winter ranges. In those large flocks, more birds may become infected and the overall population can be decimated.

Climate change

Climate change is one of the most important reasons of declining in populations of migratory birds. As temperatures rise, birds are thrown from their migration cycle; when birds reach their destinations they rely on certain foods to live through the season. Breeding success in some species, such as insect-eating songbirds, could be jeopardized due to mismatch between the peak of availability of food and hatching of chicks. Climate change leads to changes and shifts in habitats, which causes re-distribution of birds, too. Some species are threatened by nearly complete loss of their habitats.
 

How to Help Our Feathered Friends Complete Their Journey Safely?

Collisions

Tens of thousands of migrating birds collide with obstacles in mid-flight during both spring and fall migrations, and the majority of these collisions cause fatal injuries. Even if the birds are not killed on impact, stunned birds are more susceptible to predators. The most common dangerous obstacles include tall glass buildings, electrical wires and poles, wind turbines, and similar structures.
    
Habitat loss

By far the largest threat to birds is the loss of habitat. Deforestation, the draining of wetlands, planting of non-native trees, the loss of areas to urban developments and intensive agriculture are major threats to birds.  Numbers of many species are in serious decline as a result of habitat loss and these losses are particularly serious on islands, where bird populations are often small and very fragile.

How to save migratory birds

The first step in helping migratory birds is to understand the threats they face along the way. There are some simple actions to minimize those threats.

Recycle everything

Recycle Anything you recycle reduces litter and saves resources. Get creative! You can make a bag from used juice containers and bird feeders from old dishes and plastic bottles.

Keep your cat indoors

This is best for your cat as well as the birds, as indoor cats live an average of three to seven times longer. Even well fed cats kill birds, and bells on cats don’t effectively warn birds of cat strikes.

Mark your window 

Bird collisions with windows are a leading cause of bird death across the world. One of the best things you can do at home is add markers to your windows so birds can distinguish between a window reflection and the real thing.

Avoid using harmful pesticides

Minimize or eliminate pesticide use and dispose of oil, lead, and other toxic materials safely and responsibly so there is no environmental contamination that can affect birds. If a spill occurs, participate in cleanup efforts can help protect both local and migratory birds.

Turn off your lights

Many songbirds migrate overnight; they always rely on the moon and stars to help guide them along their journey. Overnight lights can confuse migratory birds and cause them to collide with windows. Save our feathered friends by turning out the lights.

Birds need our help now more than ever. Migration is a natural part of many birds' lives, but it is fraught with danger. By understanding the threats migrating birds face, it is possible for every birder to help their feathered friends complete these seasonal journeys safely.

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