World Migratory Bird Day is May 10
The Philippines is not only a popular destination for human tourists. The country’s precious wetland & forest habitats are important rest stops and destinations for our “feathered tourists” too.
These birds take part in an instinctive behavior that can span all over the world called migration. One species, the Bar-tailed Godwit, can travel over 11,000 kilometers non-stop. This is the longest continuous journey that has ever been recorded for a landbird. These birds can be found on Philippine shores as they migrate from Alaska all the way down to New Zealand and Australia.
When winter arrives in northern countries, migratory birds begin moving south toward tropical countries including the Philippines. This mass movement of birds begins in September and ends in March of the following year.
The Philippines is a popular rest stop and destination for many of these birds. The country sits inside a “highway in the sky” called a Flyway.
"Highway in the Sky"
Do you live near a highway? Do you use it often? Birds travel around the world in what are known as Flyways, and there are 9 of them:
- Atlantic Americas Flyway
- Black Sea/Mediterranean Flyway
- Central Asian Flyway
- East Asian-Australasian Flyway
- East Atlantic Flyway
- Mississippi Americas Flyway
- Pacific Americas Flyway
- West Asian-East African Flyway
- West Pacific Flyway
We live within the East Asian Australasian Flyway, and 50 million migratory waterbirds use It every year! It extends from the arctic & Russia, encompasses Southeast Asia, and reaches as far south as Australia and New Zealand.
Tourists with a purpose
Birds take the risk of traveling long distances to escape harsh winters, among other reasons yet to be fully studied. It takes a lot of energy, so it is no wonder that upon their arrival in the Philippines, their primary goal is to find food and gain back the weight they lost. Migratory waterbirds in particular look for food in wetlands and coastal areas like mangroves, estuaries, mudflats, bays and freshwater areas like large lakes, rivers, and even rice fields. You may have seen some of them before, like the big, white egrets or tagak.
Why care about these feathered tourists?
These same mangroves, coastal areas, lakes, and rivers, that migratory birds depend on after their long travels, are the same places human beings depend on. These habitats contribute greatly to human lives; mangroves provide protection against storm surge and give livelihood, while bays and lakes provide fish and recreation, among a vast number of other things that they offer humans.
Without these habitats, our feathered tourists will stop visiting, and we ourselves will be further exposed to calamity and the dangers of depleted fisheries and unhealthy coastal areas.
Join the welcome
Every year during the migratory bird season the Haribon Foundation organizes birdwatching activities, coastal clean-ups, and learning sessions to help spread awareness about migratory birds and the habitats that we share with them. To help, sign up for our newsletter, follow us on Facebook or Twitter, or join our membership to get further opportunities to learn and help save the Philippines' most precious feathered tourist destinations.