World Migratory Bird Day

Celebrating some of the Kingdom’s most magnificent visitors on World Migratory Bird Day

The theme for this year’s event is the effect of light pollution on migration.

Celebrating some of the Kingdom’s most magnificent visitors on World Migratory Bird Day

This year’s international World Migratory Bird Day is designed to raise awareness of the extraordinary feats of endurance migratory birds perform, but also to highlight the anthropogenic threats to their migration from light pollution. 


Migratory birds that pass through the Kingdom can travel thousands of miles on their journeys.  They display extraordinary stamina and utilize flyways which haven’t changed for hundreds of years and have been in use before our technical age and the invention of electricity.    


However, because of the strains of their migration, birds are often at their most vulnerable on these epic journeys.  This is because of the resources required and stress to their bodies, sometimes losing over 50% of their body mass.  This makes them very susceptible to any changes in the environment which makes their journeys harder which can be the tipping point from a successful migration to not surviving the journey.


Dim the Lights for Birds at Night

The theme for this year’s event is the effect of light pollution on migration. Migratory birds face many challenges.  Artificial light is increasing globally by at least 2 per cent per year and it is known to adversely affect many bird species. 


Light pollution is extremely harmful to migrating birds due to its disorientating effect on night migration causing collisions, interfering with their internal clocks, or interfering with their ability to undertake long-distance migrations sending birds off course extending their migration with some times lethal consequences. 


“World Migratory Bird Day 2022 is not only about raising awareness on the negative effects of light pollution on migratory birds. We also hope the campaign will trigger concrete commitments and pledges from parties, cities, and other key stakeholders across the world,” said Amy Fraenkel, executive secretary of Convention on Migratory Species.


As global citizens, cooperation to work towards a sustainable change in our environment begins with acknowledging ecological significance, protecting and acting to prevent harm to the environment.  This year’s World Migratory Bird Day slogan is Dim the Lights for Birds at Night!  This simple and powerful message highlights the need to act collectively curb the use of unnecessary light at night to reduce the negative impact it has on migratory birds. Therefore, ensuring  ecological benefits and the incredible migratory feats of birds are protected for future generations to witness.


Some of the Kingdom’s most fascinating visitors

The following selected photographs illustrate some of the significant birds and their incredible adaptations for migrating across Saudi Arabia.

The extraordinary Willow Warbler migrates 24,000 km in just six months passing through the harsh conditions of Saudi Arabia, yet it weighs as little as three teaspoons of water when ready for its migration. Migrating birds store as much fuel as they can as body fat. In addition, they absorb their own organs as they travel across the Kingdom and beyond to power their marathon journeys. These magnificent birds will continue to lose more than half their body weight on their journey (Photo: Jem Babbington).

Aramco has created eleven biodiversity protection areas on company land covering over 980 km2, including some important migratory bird habitats. For example, many birds migrating along the Gulf coast rest and forage at Abu Ali, one of the Company’s Biodiversity Protection Areas. A migrating osprey takes a rest at Abu Ali before continuing its epic journey (Photo: Abdullah Alsuhaibany).


The migration of Demoiselle Crane is one of the most amazing group migrations. Thousands of birds aggregate and migrate in batches across Saudi Arabia, crossing the Red Sea to Jiddah with a beautiful V- formation with their necks extended to reduce air resistance. It is impossible for large birds like crane to maintain flapping flight all the way during migration. Thus, they tend to adopt soaring flight which they circle high into the air on thermal currents using their broad, outstretched wings; this allows migration at speeds around 200 kilometers per day. The distinctive honking sound when migrating may betrays their presence to hunters (Photo: Mohammed Al-Mohatresh). 

This eye-catching white-throated bee-eater breeds in the Sahel region of Africa and in southwestern Saudi Arabia and western Yemen migrating over the Red Sea. The white-throated bee-eater are known to be social, living in groups with cooperative breeding system of up to 5 helpers. One of the most extraordinary aspects of bee-eaters is the way they handle their prey; a dead bee’s sting is still venomous, so the bee-eater holds the bee by the abdomen, and rubs the bee’s tail rapidly against the perch to remove the sting. The bee-eater keeps its eyes closed to protect itself against any venom that might squirt from the bee’s tail (Photo: Bandar Al-Jaber).

A European honey-buzzard  — despite its name — is not actually a buzzard but a kite- is a rare passage migrant   through Saudi Arabia in autumn (September through November), and very rarely in spring. The global population of the European Honey-buzzard is decreasing. In addition, mortality on migration is particularly high amongst juveniles during their first desert crossing, presumably because juvenile raptors are inexperienced, and more vulnerable to poor weather conditions (Photo: Abdullah H. Al-Turaiqi). 

Some masked shrikes pass through the Kingdom on their 3,000 km migration while others winter here, especially in the foothills in the southwest and very occasionally in Dhahran, Riyadh and Yanbu’. The shrike’s facial mask helps overcome the glare of the sun helping to see their prey. Due to their tendency to impale their prey on thorns and tear them apart with their bills, shrikes are sometimes referred to as Butcherbirds; they leave poisonous insects impaled for days until any toxins have degraded (Photo: Jem Babbington).

Due to climate or water changes in their breeding grounds, flamingoes may be forced to move to a different place. Flamingos in Asia tend to migrate to warmer regions. The Greater Flamingoes are common passage migrants and winter visitors to Saudi Arabia’s coasts. Many greater flamingoes spend the Winter foraging in the shallow Waters of the red sea and Arabian gulf. Flamingos are filter feeders and turn their heads upside down to eat (Photo: Bandar Al-Jaber). 


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