Safe Flyways Programme

Photo: Tomi Muukkonen

Working Together to Protect Migratory Birds in the Mediterranean

Twice each year an estimated 3 billion birds take to the skies to make the arduous journey between Eurasia and Africa. This incredible journey from their wintering grounds to their breeding grounds and back again is called migration. On the African-Eurasian flyway many birds cross the Sahara Desert and Mediterranean Sea, however once they’ve overcome these huge natural obstacles they face an even greater challenge: persecution from humans.


Every migration is a massacre, with threats such as illegal trapping and hunting, collision with energy sector infrastructure (wind turbines and power lines) and loss of key stop-over feeding and resting sites. These threats have led to sustained and severe declines in migrant bird populations over the past few decades. Over 25 million birds are illegally killed each year because of hunting and trapping alone.

What We're Doing

From their perspective in the sky, migratory birds need support that transcends international borders and political agendas. The BirdLife Partnership is in a unique position to achieve this. Through the Safe Flyways programme we have joined forces with an international consortium of NGOs operating in the region who share our vision for the protection of migratory birds. This consortium includes WWF, IUCN Med, Vulture Copnservation Foundation, Euronatur and Tour du Valat.


Thanks to this joint approach, our combined global network extends to over 50 national conservation organisations operating locally all along the African-Eurasian Flyway. Together our actions have the power to change behaviour and end human-induced mortality across the Mediterranean. Martin Hellicar (Director, BirdLife Cyprus) says: “Cyprus is a little island besieged by illegal trappers, so to know you are not alone is really important.”

Ensuring Safe Flyways

The Safe Flyways programme generously funded by the MAVA Foundation, aims to strengthen a dynamic network of conservation NGOs that work effectively with local people, national governments, and the international community to protect key migratory species, sites and habitats in the Mediterranean region.


The first phase of the project (2012- 2014) supported the delivery of national conservation action to address these key threats in Cyprus, Malta, Turkey, Tunisia, Lebanon, Macedonia, Montenegro and Morocco.  As part of their mission to protect migratory birds, BirdLife Partner NGOs in each country implemented national level conservation activities, working to address the issue within their specific cultural, social and political context.


The next phase from (2017-2023) focuses on 21 countries to reduce three key threats:

  • Reducing illegal bird killing in the Mediterranean
  • Reducing energy infrastructure related bird mortality in the Mediterranean
  • Reducing vulture (and other scavengers and predators) mortality due to the use of poison baits and lead ammunition across the Mediterranean

In addition to monitoring and national conservation action, the programme is also focused on Mediterranean-wide capacity building, information sharing and awareness raising. Check out our awareness-raising campaign here.

Further Resources

  • Learn more about ending Illegal Killing of Birds
  • Learn more about renewable energy and safeguarding policies
  • Learn more about poisoning
  • Learn more about Flyways and Migratory Birds