• Half a million ‘tourists’ now in the Philippines

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    Thousands of Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) during migration in Naujan Photo by David Quimpo

    Thousands of Tufted Ducks (Aythya fuligula) during migration in Naujan Photo by David Quimpo

    THEY’RE not the kind of tourists Filipinos are familiar with.

    Half a million migratory birds, including 64 globally-threatened species, travel through the Philippines every year between late September and extending into March.

    Most of them coming from as far north as China, Russia, and the arctic to escape the cold winters and decreasing food sources of their breeding grounds. This period is also referred to as “migratory season.” These feathered creatures are now officially here.

    Highways in the sky
    These birds, like many migrating animals, follow the same routes year after year. This allows scientists to track their movements via what are known as “Flyways.” The Philippines is near-center of what is known as the East Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF). It is one of only nine main flyways in the world where migratory birds travel every year. In the Philippines alone, up to 197 species of migratory birds can be seen at this time.

    Stop-over flights in paradise, for now
    Once they arrive, migratory birds are most commonly seen in wetlands—such as coastal areas like mangroves, estuaries, mudflats, bays, and freshwater areas like large lakes, rivers, and even rice fields–where food is plentiful. Here they use their specially designed bodies to forage for different kinds of food. Migratory birds also visit our forests, like raptors or birds of prey, fueling up on frogs and lizards.

    Unfortunately, migratory birds also face a lot of threats. The largest threat to birds is the loss of habitat. Deforestation, the draining of wetlands, planting of non-native trees, the loss of areas to urban developments and intensive agriculture are major threats to birds. Numbers of many species are in serious decline as a result of habitat loss and these losses are particularly serious on islands where bird populations are often small and very fragile.

    What you can do
    To keep them coming, we must protect their habitats and increase awareness on their part in the environment. The Haribon Foundation alongside BirdLife International and many other NGOs around the world celebrate “Welcome to the Birds” every migratory season. It is at this time when citizens are called to participate in the following activities in the Philippines to help spread word of our feathered tourists:

    Teaching Tours: Have your group, school, or company learn more about migratory birds.

    The feathered creatures’ ‘flight plan’

    The feathered creatures’ ‘flight plan’

    Birdwatching Tours: See these birds in their own habitats. Your donation to register not only goes to conservation efforts, but also includes binocular rental, field guides, and guidance on-site by Haribon researchers and staff

    Bird Race and Wader Quest: Use your birdwatching skills both amateur and experienced on the field by joining world-wide bird counts and bird count races.

    Help raise awareness about the state and importance of migratory birds and their habitats, and welcome them together with your family and friends! To get to know more about Welcome to the Birds 2015, visit bit.ly/wtodabirds! For inquiries, call: (632) 421-1209 | 921.12.09 and/or email: membership@haribon.org.ph

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