May 11

The 11th and 12th of May mark World Migratory Bird Day, which launched in 2006 to raise awareness of the need to protect migratory birds. Migratory birds often make several stops on their amazing journeys to a wide array of different habitats across the world. Many of these habitats are of vital importance to these birds, allowing them to rest, feed and breed.

Sadly many of these habitats are also under threat from pollution, development or global warming. To further complicate matters, many migratory routes cross the borders of several countries, meaning that a global conservation effort is required to be effective. This year’s World Migratory Bird Day theme is ‘Networking for Migratory Birds’, which focuses on the need for the relevant organisations to cooperate and network with each other to achieve conservation goals.

The ARKive website has images, videos and facts for many different migratory birds – here are just a few:

The long distance marathon record

The Arctic tern has one of the longest migration routes of any bird, moving from the Arctic and temperate regions of the northern hemisphere all the way over to the Southern Ocean and Antarctica. On the plus side, flying so far south for a second summer does mean that the Arctic tern sees the most sunlight per year of any animal.

Photo of Arctic tern calling

Almost pole to pole – the Arctic tern

Longest non-stop flight

Imagine travelling up to 10,400 kilometres with no stops whatsoever. The bar-tailed godwit does just that when it migrates from Alaska and Siberia to its wintering grounds in New Zealand. Though averaging an impressive flight speed of 63 kilometres per hour it still takes around 175 hours. That’s what I call a long haul flight!

Photo of bar-tailed godwit flock in flight

Bar-tailed godwit flock in flight

Migration en masse for some winter sun

The barn swallow is probably one of the world’s most familiar bird species as it is the most numerous and widespread of all the swallows. It is also a very agile flier, making sharp turns to catch insects on the wing. Before migrating south for the winter, these small birds form flocks of over a million individuals. Quite a sight to behold.

Photo of barn swallows congregating in tree

A flock of barn swallows congregating in a tree

The 747 of birds

The wandering albatross has the largest wingspan of all birds, at an impressive three and a half metres! Given its name, it probably comes as no surprise that this species gets around quite a bit. Its large wingspan allows the wandering albatross to soar with little effort over long distances.

Photo of wandering albatross in flight against stormy sky with pair displaying in backgroud

It will take more than a bit of stormy weather to ground the wandering albatross

George Bradford, ARKive Researcher

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