Their Future is our future
This is the theme of the world migratory bird day being commemorated on May 13th.
Avian migration is one of the most wonderful events of nature. Birds fly distances to find best ecological conditions and habitat for feeding, breeding and bringing up their young.
Migratory birds are birds that travel distances for various reasons, but primarily reason being food and nesting. birds move between the northern and southern hemisphere in search of food, and safe and comfortable nesting zones.
Migration could be short distance that is in the geographic range from high altitude to low or it could be of medium order within a reasonable radius and then there are long distance ones that are across continents. A bird like Red knot travels 16,000 km twice a year.
These birds fly year after year with very little deviation in the flyway corridor. The first year birds often make their first migration on their own, it is almost as if the flight chart is memorized by the DNA. How the birds do this is not really understood. However it is known that they orient themselves with the sun during the day, the stars guide the navigation at night and geomagnetism can be tapped on any time. Olfactory sense seem to play a great role when it comes to navigation in the case of the homing pigeon.
Many birds have a preferred pathway for their annual migration, these usually involves important stop overs that provide food supplies that are critical to the birds survival.
These flights are dangerous and ardours. It challenges the physical and mental capacity of the bird. There are predators that threaten the bird. In the recent years, the land reclamation and poaching is eating into the natural habitat disorienting the avian migrations. Many birds are attracted by bright lights while some are confused resulting in collisions with structures. The latest hazard being the tall communication towers.
Role of migratory birds in economy.
Migrant birds are biodiversity indicators of the state of our environment, as their migratory patterns match their feeding and breeding needs. With change in climate there is a change in the timing of the elements of their life cycle too.
Migrating birds act as eco-wardens, and health wardens as they feed on insects and rodents. Vultures which are almost non-visible these days are natural scavengers they can dispose large carcasses rapidly , thus playing a critical role in nutrient cycling. Vultures west Africa to southeast Asia are declining partially due to poisoning of their prey.
The migrant birds follow the food trail, this feeding pattern leads to flower pollination and seed dispersion. This is part of natures ecological regulation.
Project UNEP Siberian crane wetlands were about sustaining Siberian cranes and millions of other migratory water birds. This restoration not only provided the migratory birds like Siberian Crane to rest and feed it also helped to provide millions people water. The wetlands act as carbon sinks and help in combating climate change. The wetlands are flood defences and help to sustain productive fisheries.
Guano in Quechan language means droppings of the sea birds, this is considered one of nature’s best fertizers. The Incas considered it so valuable that access to was restricted any disturbance to the sea bird incurred death penalty. Guano allowed improved soil texture, clearing of toxins and speedy decomposition.
The bird dropping result from a complex process starting with the living plants eaten by insects, which in turn are consumed by the fishes that are eaten by the sea birds and digested by the sea bird.
Falconry is another economic activity that uses avian migration, the roots of which lies in Asia dating back to 2000BC. Falconry has been recongnized by UNESCO as global cultural heritage since 2010, it is an art of hunting with trained birds of prey. The decrease in the demand has brought about 60% drop in the species over the last 20yrs. Falconers however are working at conserving of raptors and their prey through preservation of natural habitats and captive breeding. Recently the falconers have reintroduced a species that had totally vanished.
Bird hunting is a major socio-economic activity around the globe, and billions of birds are hunted each year. This along with land poaching has resulted in a decline of migratory bird population. The flyway of these global avian, run across nations and their decline effect globally.
At the end of the day it is for us, to sit up and ensure that these health wardens, natural pollinators, biodiversity indicators , natural scavengers and soil doctors are safe. for their future is also our future, we need to re-commit to sustainable development.