Reversing insect decline key to migratory bird conservation

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May 11 is World Migratory Bird Day
World Migratory Bird Day
Since its proclamation by the UN in 2006, it has been celebrated on the second Saturday of May and also on the second Saturday of October. In this way, reference is made to the different migratory cycles of birds with the change of seasons. This date, which is the result of the union of two international treaties, the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species of Wild Animals (CMS) and the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), aims to raise awareness about migratory birds and the need for cooperation on a global scale to conserve these species and their habitats.

This year, under the slogan “
Protect insects, protect birds
“, reflects on the importance of insect populations for migratory birds and their worrying decline.

Insects are an essential source of energy for many migratory bird species during breeding seasons, for feeding their young and also during their long journeys. So much so that their presence and abundance greatly affect the timing, duration and overall success of bird migrations.

Since they are present in almost all ecosystems of the world, throughout their migratory journeys, birds feed on insects in wetlands, forests, fields and other habitats where they stop. The timing of bird migration often coincides with peak insect abundance at stopover sites, providing them with food to replenish energy before continuing their journey.

Despite their importance, insect populations are declining in recent years, which also threatens the survival and well-being of the species that depend on them. The transformation of natural areas, intensive agriculture, urban development or pesticides and herbicides are some of the causes behind the decline of insects.

Shortages of energy- and protein-rich insects disrupt the ecosystem functions that birds perform, such as pollination and pest control. Overpopulation of certain insects, without birds as natural predators, can cause damage to plant and crop health.

In our country, the swift, the swallow and the common house martin are the insectivorous birds with the greatest presence in cities. But between 1998 and 2019, the decline of around 30% has been certified in the case of the three species, caused, among other causes, by the use of pesticides, which are killing their food source, according to information from Ecologists in Action.

The Biodiversity Foundation of the Ministry for Ecological Transition and the Demographic Challenge has contributed, since its inception, to the protection and to the improvement of the state of conservation of avifauna in general and migratory birds in particular, supporting projects that, directly or indirectly, are in line with this purpose.

Thus, we have promoted initiatives for the development of conservation actions for endangered species, such as the bittern (Botaurus stellaris) or the brown teal(Marmaronetta angustirrostris), for which we also promote different actions with the aim of reversing their situation through the LIFE Cerceta Pardilla (Brown Teal). It has also contributed to the conservation and restoration of key natural habitats for migratory birds and other wildlife species, and has boosted the generation of scientific knowledge on terrestrial, marine and coastal biodiversity. In addition, actions to improve the management of Special Protection Areas for Birds (SPAs) have been promoted and the sustainable management of livestock, agriculture, fishing, hunting and forestry uses in Natura 2000 Network areas has been encouraged and promoted.

Within the framework of the Recovery, Transformation and Resilience Plan (PRTR), financed by the European Union – NextGenerationEU, several projects are being supported to improve the situation in areas where migratory birds regularly pass through or are present.