Migratory Birds & Flyways

Bird migration is one of the great wonders of the natural world. Roughly one in five bird species migrate. Many travel thousands of miles between their breeding places and their wintering grounds: the tiny Rufous Hummingbird migrates up and down the North American continent, while the Arctic Tern, BirdLife’s emblem, migrates from pole to pole. 

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.

The Problem

Migratory birds are being hit hard when they are most vulnerable. After very long journeys they face countless dangers. These may include the destruction and degradation of their habitat, the loss of critical stopover sites such as coastal wetlands, illegal killing, poisoning, pollution, and collisions with badly-sited infrastructure such as power lines and wind turbines.


We have identified the sectors that affect migratory birds the most have been identified as those of agriculture, energy, hunting, tourism and waste management. With this in mind, our Migratory Soaring Birds project aims to work with every sector in eleven countries within the Rift Valley (an important flyway for birds).

Migratory birds know no boundaries. International collaboration is essential to keep the flyways safe and another one of our projects focuses on working with national and regional governments in Mediterranean Europe and North Africa, BirdLife has already made significant steps in controlling and reducing the illegal killing of migratory birds.


Other articles of interest:

The video below "Living on the Edge: improving bird habitats in the Sahel" is available in English and French.

Find out more about Migratory Birds & Flyways.