Flyways and the CMS

The issue

Around the world many migratory bird species are sharply declining in numbers, and these declines are indicative of the threats facing the wider environment.  Landscape impacts such as conversion of forests to plantations, drainage of wetlands, desertification of savannahs and land conversion to agriculture are having an impact gloabally. The potential disappearance of migratory species from flyways and the landscape, locally, nationally and regionally was unthinkable 30 years ago, but is now an increasing possibility unless action is taken on an international scale to conserve sites and habitats along their flyways as well as direct conservation actions for threatened species.

BirdLife’s policy and advocacy work includes: advocating key actions at individual sites (especially Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs)) and across networks of sites at the flyway and landscape scale to address a range of multiple threats; promoting and working with range states governments to implement appropriate actions, including stronger enforcement of national and regional legislation; and mainstreaming the conservation of migratory bird species across broader sectoral policies such as energy, agriculture and hunting, that impact the flyways. 


About CMS and its daughter agreements

As migratory species move from place to place across the world, they have become a symbol of the need for international efforts in nature conservation. Migrants can only be effectively conserved if all the range states work together; an action in one area should not be nullified by an unsustainable action in a different location. This idea was behind the creation of the Convention on Migratory Species (CMS), which entered into force in 1983 and currently has nearly 119 countries as Contracting Parties.

The Convention aims to conserve terrestrial and marine migratory species, including many birds, throughout their range. The Contracting Parties cooperate to conserve migratory species and their habitats by providing strict protection for endangered migratory species (listed In Appendix I), by establishing multilateral agreements for the conservation and management of migratory species (listed in Appendix II) and by undertaking co-operative research activities.

A number of daughter agreements under the CMS are of major relevance to bird conservation. These include The "African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA)" for the conservation of western Palearctic waterbirds; the "Agreement on the Conservation of Albatrosses and Petrels (ACAP)", a major force for the conservation of species threatened by, among other things, death on long line fishing hooks; the Memorandum of Understanding on the Conservation of Migratory Birds of Prey in Africa and Eurasia (Raptors MoU); and many species action plans including for the Siberian Crane, Slender-billed Curlew, Great Bustard and Aquatic Warbler. For details, see the CMS website.


BirdLife and the CMS

BirdLife and our multi-national team of BirdLife Partners is very active at the Convention’s Conferences of the Parties (COPs) of the CMS, and also in the processes and meetings of the various daughter agreements,  and also regularly takes a seat at the Convention’s influential Scientific Council. We have also been very involved in the development and operation of all of the CMS agreements relevant to birds.



On the national level, BirdLife Partners work with their Governments to improve national legislation for threatened species and stimulate regional cooperation across flyways, to fulfill their obligations as signatories to the Convention.


Policy positions and briefs  

BirdLife attended the CMS COP 10 in Bergen, Norway in November 2011, which may well have been one of the most significant so far, in advancing the conservation of migratory birds. BirdLife’s policy and advocacy focussed on strengthening and calling for adoption of the following resolutions:

  • Improving the Conservation Status of Migratory Landbirds in the African Eurasian Region (Resolution 10.27) which seeks to improve the conservation status of these mostly passerine species, which are probably declining faster than any other suite of birds in the region. An international action plan will be developed during the course of the next three years coordinated through the forum of the CMS;
  • Minimising the Risk of Poisoning to Migratory Birds (Resolution 10.26), which will result in the development of the first ever global guidelines on how to combat the threat of poisoning;
  • Power Lines and Migratory Species (Resolution 10.11) providing guidance on how to minimize the impact of power lines on migratory birds;
  • Synergies and partnerships and on capacity building to promote the concept of national biodiversity working groups to ensure on the ground implementation of the biodiversity conventions;
  • Guidance on Global Flyway Conservation and Options for Policy Arrangements (resolution 10.10) which for the first time proposes an overarching framework for all work under CMS on migratory birds;
  • BirdLife and its Partners hosted and co-hosted a number of side events on topics including Global Waterbird Flyway Conservation best practice, with a focus on East Asian intertidal habitats and the Critically Endangered Spoon-billed Sandpiper Eurynorhynchus pygmeus; the Vulnerable Aquatic Warbler Acrocephalus paludicola  (APB, BirdLife in Belarus); Vulnerable Lesser White-fronted Goose Anser erythropus (NOF, BirdLife in Norway); the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on South American Grasslands (Guyra Paraguay); and the Saiga Antelope Saiga tatarica (ACBK, BirdLife in Kazakhstan).

BirdLife is also active in working to mainstream migratory birds into the sectors which are active in the major flyways of the world. From working with grassland farmers in South America, to renewable energy agencies in the Middle East, the BirdLife Partnership is working to ensure that birds are protected and habitats secured.