World Migratory Bird Day is on October 8th, celebrating the birds that migrate annually along the three great ‘flyways’ that cross the globe.
We are part of the East Asian-Australasian Flyway – a large swathe of sea and land used by birds coming south to feed while their Arctic home is frozen over during winter in the Northern Hemisphere.
Flying thousands of kilometres, about 36 species of waterbirds including plovers, sandpipers, stints, curlews and snipes migrate to Australia on an annual basis. That may be more than 2 million birds flying up to 26,000 km; mostly from Alaska and Siberia. Another 15 or 16 species visit occasionally.
This year the focus for the UN’s World Migratory Bird Day is on light pollution, which is a significant threat to migratory birds.
Light pollution is when artificial light contributes to the brightening of the night sky. It is known to adversely affect many species and ecological communities by disrupting critical behaviours and functional processes in wildlife. The UN Environment program recognizes that artificial light, particularly at night, is an emerging issue for the conservation of wildlife, astronomy and human health.
Artificial light is increasing globally by at least 2 per cent per year, but solutions are readily available. For example, cities around the world are taking measures to dim building lights during migration phases in spring and autumn.
Australia has contributed best practice guidelines under the Convention on Migratory Species to address this growing issue and ensure that action is taken globally to help birds migrate safely. The Guidelines are instructive for anyone designing outdoor lighting from lighting paths and carparks to city buildings and street lighting. Find the National Light Pollution Guidelines for Wildlife here.