26 Mar 2018

Everything you need to know about our upcoming Summit for the Flyways

This April, some of the greatest minds of the conservation world will assemble at a global summit in Abu Dhabi, to thrash out the issues threatening our migratory birds. Below, we give a summary of the pressing topics we’ll be discussing.

The summit will address how best to conserve the world's migration superhighways © Shutterstock
The summit will address how best to conserve the world's migration superhighways © Shutterstock
By Shaun Hurrell



Migratory birds don’t have an easy life. To get to where they need to be, they have to run the gauntlet of illegal hunting/killing, wind turbines, pollution and a panoply of other threats. And these threats are only getting bigger. In response, we’ve brought together some of the world's greatest bird scientists, conservationists, donors and policy influencers under one roof. From 23rd – 26th April, the Summit for the Flyways in Abu Dhabi will aim to answer one question: how do we best tackle the threats facing migratory birds?

At this event, we’ll also be releasing a key publication: The State of the World’s Birds 2018. Five years in the making, this highly important journal will provide a snapshot of the health of not only the world's birds, but the ecosystems they represent. Described as “taking the pulse of the planet”, the findings will inform conservation decisions and lend weight to political campaigning in the years to come.

Our discussion leaders explain the topics they’ll be tackling:


Ending the killing

Bringing an end to the illegal killing/hunting of migratory birds

Barend van Gemerden, BirdLife’s Global Flyways Programme Coordinator

The illegal killing/hunting of migratory birds is a pressing global conservation issue of our time, and increasingly on national and international agendas, partly exacerbated by new technologies. In the Mediterranean alone, an estimated 25 million migratory birds are illegally killed or taken each year, and work elsewhere is revealing that this is a widespread issue. Birds are killed illegally for a variety of socio-economic and deeply-embedded cultural reasons, therefore, in addition to the immediate need for effective enforcement alongside strong legislation, achieving zero tolerance of illegal killing calls for long-term change in the attitudes of people towards migratory birds and nature. All of these require long-term collaboration between many stakeholders including governments, hunting organisations, conservation NGOs, policy mechanisms, and donors, and we already have some inspiring successful examples to build from.


Key partner: Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)


Caring for Coasts: crucial wetlands for waterbirds

Conserving critical networks of coastal wetlands for migratory waterbirds

Nicola Crockford, Principal Policy Officer, RSPB (BirdLife UK)

Like the line between land and sea that many waterbirds follow on their arduous migrations, the birds similarly fly a thin line between survival and exhaustion, reliant on crucial coastal wetlands to rest and refuel. But these sites (and groups of birds) are under threat like never before: from land claim, pollution, upstream damming, invasive alien species; as well as sea level rise. The re-planning (in response to climate change) and conservation of these sites is hampered by the fragmentation of governance of the coastal zone, so we need a coherent international policy framework for coastal conservation, such as a joint Global Coastal Forum under the different biodiversity conventions. Each flyway’s network of coastal Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, or IBAs (with the top ones of World Heritage and Ramsar status), must be urgently protected and restored, and the business sector must be engaged, where Working Coastal Wetlands such as shellfisheries, aquaculture and saltpans play a critical role.


Key partner: Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)


One big plan of action to save vultures

Implementing the Vulture Multi-species Action Plan (CMS MsAP)

Roger Safford, BirdLife’s Preventing Extinction Programme Manager

The vultures of Africa and Eurasia are in crisis. These iconic, unsung heroes have extraordinary value as nature’s landscape-cleaners, but they face a daunting range of threats – mainly from poisoning – but also collisions and electrocution with energy infrastructure, and loss and degradation of their habitats and food supplies. These threats are deep-rooted and so not easily countered. Moreover, these wide-ranging birds encounter the threats over huge areas. The conservation challenge is immense, requiring innovation, collaboration and hard work across entire landscapes. A vital step has been the adoption in 2017 of the CMS MsAP to conserve them, but it is time to turn this and other plans into further action.


Key partner: Convention on Migratory Species (CMS)


Plugging flyways into the energy sector

Mainstreaming flyway conservation with wind energy and power-transmission sectors

Noelle Kumpel, BirdLife’s Head of Policy, and Charlie Butt, BirdLife’s Business & Nature Partnerships Manager

The world needs to move from a dependency on dirty fossil fuels to a low carbon society in order to avoid the dangers of runaway climate change. While BirdLife supports the transition to clean renewable energy, inappropriately-placed or operated wind turbines and powerlines cause many migratory birds to die by collision or electrocution. The locations of new and existing infrastructure must be carefully considered, with appropriate safeguards and measures integrated into the energy sector to avoid and minimise risks to migratory birds and their habitats. We will explore the associated issues and identify practical solutions for business, governments, conventions, and civil society, in order to accelerate progress towards a solution that works for biodiversity, climate and sustainable development.


Key partners: CMS Energy Task Force, Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)


Saving the glorious bustards

Bustard conservation: Status, trends, progress and achievements

Stuart Butchart, BirdLife’s Chief Scientist

Whilst scientists can fathom the aerodynamics that enable the world’s heaviest flying birds to thrust into the air, the conservation of Bustards needs an additional lift. Bustards (a group of large-bodied terrestrial birds) are among the most threatened bird families in the world: 15 of 26 species are globally threatened, or nearly, with extinction. We will look at the conservation issues facing this group, review solutions to tackle habitat loss and degradation, unsustainable hunting, mortality caused by collisions with powerlines and other threats, and consider the role that captive breeding may play in the conservation of some species. Bringing together key stakeholders, we will discuss how we can scale up action and strengthen international cooperation for their conservation.


Key partner: International Fund for Houbara Conservation


People power

Capacity development for flyway conservation

Julius Arinaitwe, BirdLife’s Director for Partnership, Capacity & Communities

Everywhere migratory birds fly, someone will be watching. We need to build a bigger and stronger network of people and organisations taking action for conservation in every country along a flyway. Strengthening the existing network, and identifying and building expertise for countries currently under represented, is a key response to tackling threats facing migratory species. Our effectiveness and influence for flyways conservation will be aided through stronger collaboration and sharing of expertise and knowledge. Through the Flyways Summit, we will create a common agenda for developing conservation capacity along flyways that will select priority projects and identify how they will be implemented and funded.


Key partners: Converge for Impact, Wetlands International, the MAVA Foundation


For the sake of falcons

A global action plan for Saker Falcon conservation

Nick Williams, Programme Officer - Birds of Prey (Raptors), CMS

Saker Falcon Falco cherrug (Endangered) populations have suffered rapid declines driven by threats including electrocution on powerline poles, unsustainable trapping for falconry purposes and habitat degradation. Parties to the CMS adopted the Saker Falcon Global Action Plan (SakerGAP) in 2014. It brought together more than eighty countries, organisations, scientists, falconers and other stakeholders with the shared goal to re-establish a healthy, self-sustaining wild population throughout its range. The session will present an update of conservation actions, an outline SakerGAP Summary Implementation Plan with key priorities, and encourage collaboration and support across participating sectors.


Key partner: CMS Raptors MoU



The Summit of the Flyways is convened by BirdLife International in association with key players in migration conservation, including the MAVA foundation, CMS and OSME. The Summit is kindly hosted by the International Fund for Houbara Conservation. To learn more about the summit and share your own opinions on flyways join the conversation on social media using #FlywaysSummit.