Nine Surprising Migratory Bird Facts

Birds manage to make such mammoth journeys despite various threats, including those posed by humans. In the Mediterranean region alone, millions of migratory birds are hunted and captured each year with guns, nets or twigs covered in adhesive bird lime.

At least two million are said to be caught in Cyprus each year but Egypt tops the list with 140 million birds being caught yearly on their way from Europe to Africa. On the way back they are also hunted in countries such as Albania, leading to population declines because fewer birds get to breed.

Human impact

Humans have also affected birds’ migratory patterns. For instance, overgrazing in the Sahel – a grassland region on the southern edge of the Sahara where millions of hungry birds dine after crossing the immense desert – has caused plants to disappear and the area to dry up. The Sahara is now much wider and some birds, such as sand martins find it much harder to cross. Fewer sand martins visit Europe compared to 50 years ago.

Energized air

Green energy is usually regarded as something good but for birds it can also be dangerous. A solar plant in the United States uses mirrors to focus sunlight onto a receiver to generate electricity but it’s affecting birds too.

Due to the reflected sunlight, the air above the solar plant gets hot, so hot that within the first year of operation about 500 birds flying over it got toasted by the heat or solar flux; another 500 birds died following collisions with the plant.

Wind turbines and power lines also pose a threat to migrating birds through collision or electrocution.

The problems for migratory birds caused by the expansion of various means for generating and distributing energy, inspired the initiators of World Migratory Bird Day to make this year’s theme: “Energy – make it bird friendly!”

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