Happy International Migratory Bird Day!
OK, so it doesn't have quite the same ring as, say, National Puppy Day or Squirrel Appreciation Day. But arguably, Saturday's animal-related holiday, International Migratory Bird Day, serves a more important function than those aforementioned cute-centric holidays.
International Migratory Bird Day was conceived in the 1990s by the staff of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, with the first official event held at the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C., in 1993. The Smithsonian bird honchos figured that migratory birds could use a boost in the form of a designated day during which the public could learn about migratory species, the threats facing them and ways to help in the conservation effort.
A few years later, the Smithsonian passed the torch to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, which coordinated the International Migratory Bird Day effort for more than a decade. Since 2007, the organization Environment for the Americas has been in charge of organizing and spreading the word about the holiday.
Events to celebrate migratory birds will be held throughout the U.S. and Canada during the month of May. (In Mexico, Central America and most of South America and the Caribbean, migratory bird day celebrations are held in October because May isn't an ideal time to view migrating birds there.) To find an event near you, check out the handy interactive map at BirdDay.org. Here in Southern California, bird enthusiasts can visit the Agua Hedionda Lagoon Foundation's Migratory Bird Festival in Carlsbad on Saturday, May 15.
According to the conservation group BirdLife International, nearly 200 bird species are currently considered critically endangered. Nearly 80% of migratory bird species are affected by what BirdLife International terms the two key pressures: Agriculture, which can result in habitat destruction, and biological resource use, the umbrella under which fall threats like deforestation and environmentally unsustainable hunting practices. The group encourages those interested in helping migratory birds to learn more through its Born to Travel campaign.
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-- Lindsay Barnett
Photo: Three trumpeter swans fly in a V-shaped formation during their spring migration through Alaska on April 22. Credit: John Wagner / Associated Press