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Migratory birds - Ambassadors for biodiversity

World Migratory Bird Day over the weekend 10-11 May

In the true spirit of World Migratory Bird Day over the weekend 10-11 May, scientists from the British Trust for Ornithology will be 'migrating' to Delaware Bay on the west coast of North America, to take part in an international study monitoring the migration of the Knot, one of the world's truly global migrants.

World Migratory Bird Day takes place every year to highlight bird migration across the world. In the UK most birdwatchers will have already seen Swifts and Swallows arrive. However, this is only part of the story. Every spring, an estimated five billion birds move from Africa to Europe, to take advantage of the northern summer, and, far from being a European phenomenon, this migration will be repeated around the globe, with an estimated 50 billion birds on the move. This huge movement will not go unnoticed, as ornithologists, both amateur and professional, will be monitoring their departures and arrivals.As part of this global network, the BTO scientists and volunteers will join others from Canada, Mexico, the Netherlands, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand in Delaware Bay to study one of the world's ultimate migrants, the Knot. This small wading bird, at only 23cm long and weighing in at 150g, undertakes one of the longest journeys of any of the world's birds. Each year it flies from its winter home in Tierra del Fuego, at the southern tip of South America, to the high arctic to breed. Over its twenty-year lifespan this is the equivalent of flying to the moon and back!Its last stop before the high arctic will be Delaware Bay. Once here it will gorge itself on the eggs of the horseshoe crab, doubling its weight before continuing its journey north. However, overfishing of this living fossil in recent years has made it difficult for these birds to consume enough eggs to build the reserves for the last leg of their journey, and it would seem that more and more of them just don't make it.

Nigel Clark, of the British Trust for Ornithology, commented, "This illustrates perfectly the global nature of bird migration, the issues they face and the global nature of conservation in action. These birds know no borders and it is only fitting that the people that are studying them do likewise. Ten years ago approximately 60,000 Knot spent the winter in Tierra del Fuego. This has now dropped to around 15,000 birds."You might not be able to get to Delaware Bay this spring, but you can help by monitoring spring migration in this country. By recording the birds that you see this spring on BirdTrack, you will be helping the British Trust for Ornithology chart the arrival and movements of our summer visitors. Please see http://www.birdtrack.net

For more information on World Migratory Bird Day visit, http://www.worldmigratorybirdday.org

4th July 2014