IF motorists have express ways, flyways are highways for birds. Bird species from the north travel thousands of miles to Asia, Southeast Asia and down to Australia and New Zealand using the East-Asian Australasian Flyway (EAAF).
Millions of birds use this flyway every year to escape the cold winter and to look for food as their breeding and natural habitat freeze during this season. They travel to warmer areas down south and go back to their breeding places towards summer when the weather is warm again. There are 22 countries, including the Philippines that are part of the EAAF.
Migratory season in the Philippines starts in September and ends in March. And that’s when white and brown birds are seen along the rice fields, beaches, swamps and other wetlands. Sadly, many of these migratory bird species are also threatened, and this is mostly caused by human activities such as over exploitation, conversion of ecosystems for development purposes, habitat loss, hunting, among others.
Due to these man-made destructions, 64 out of the 500 species within the EAAF are now globally threatened.
A research and development congress for wetland and migratory water birds within the EAAF was conducted from December 1 to 4 in Mactan Island, Cebu. The congress was hosted by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources—Ecosystems Research and Development Bureau (DENR-ERD), which spearheads the researches for migratory species in the Philippines.
Participants from Russia, China, India, Bangladesh, Laos, and Australia, plus representatives from local non-government organizations and DENR officials working on the migratory and wetland birds came together to share their experiences, migratory birds’ experience, conservation actions, policies and best practices.
Haribon Foundation also shared the current activities of the organization in monitoring the threatened migratory birds in the Philippines and the awareness raising activities conducted in schools and universities around Metro Manila for these birds.
Towards the end of the congress, the participants went bird watching to one of the identified important migratory sites in the Philippines—the Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary. Thousands of birds were observed in the area, and 33 species were observed including the “vulnerable” Chinese Egret.
The Philippines is located at the center of the EAAF making our country a very significant “highway” for these migratory birds. Migratory sites like swamps, mudflats and wetlands use these areas as their feeding grounds to refuel and to have energy to continue their long and hard journey for survival.
Countries within the EAAF share the same birds, and we share the same conservation efforts. Together with Haribon Foundation, Filipinos are called to help in protect these birds and their habitats.