Migratory Birds & Flyways

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Bird migration is one of the great wonders of the natural world. A huge variety of birds make the journey: the tiny Rufous Hummingbird migrates up and down the North American continent, while the Arctic Tern, BirdLife’s emblem, migrates from pole to pole. In fact, roughly one in five bird species migrate.

Birds know no borders

Migration is a huge feat of endurance requiring great strength and stamina. However, today birds face additional threats caused by human activity. Hungry, exhausted birds may arrive at a stopover site, only to find that it has been destroyed by farming or urbanisation. Every year, millions of birds are illegally killed by hunters, or collide with man-made structures such as powerlines. And climate change is causing habitats to shift or disappear.


When travelling between their breeding and wintering grounds, birds don’t choose their paths at random. They follow set routes that include suitable habitats where they can stop to rest and refuel along the way. Many different species group together to travel along similar routes, which have been loosely split into eight main flyways – think of them as bird super-highways across the sky. BirdLife links together conservation organisations in countries along the length of the flyways, combining resources and coordinating action to protect birds on every step of their route. Our Flyways Programme focuses on protecting birds across three major global flyways.

African-Eurasian Flyway: connects the breeding grounds of Europe and northern Asia with the wintering grounds in Africa, including vital stop-over sites in the Middle East and Mediterranean

East Asian-Australasian Flyway: connects north-east Asian breeding grounds with wintering grounds in south-east Asia and Australia, including vital stop-over sites in China and the Korean Peninsula

Americas Flyway: connects North American breeding grounds with wintering grounds in the Caribbean and Central and South America

For more information about the Flyways consult the BirdLife DataZone: The Flyway Concept

Key Aims

The key aims of this programme are:


To find out what we are doing in different parts of the world check out our Regional pages:




Find out more about Migratory Birds & Flyways.