On World Migratory Bird Day, turn off the lights at night

Colombia is the country that registers the largest number of birds in the world, of which 14.5% are migratory species, some of which are threatened by damage to the environment. Photo: Bogota Botanical Garden

There is a select group of beings that have the ability to traverse entire continents with their little wings; there is a chosen group that travels ancient routes in search of estuaries, longing for food and a nest; there are birds that look like men, with empty bellies and light plumage, that “flee” from their places of origin hoping to return.

This Saturday May 14 marks the World Day of migratory birdsa date that seeks to make the inhabitants of the earth aware of the importance of these species, which travel up to 9,000 kilometers in search of heat and food, and which are threatened by the “alteration and destruction of their habitats due to deforestation and the construction of infrastructure”, according to the NGO World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

This day, which bears the motto ‘Dim the lights for birds at night’, has the objective of making a call to citizens, given that it is an important and growing threat to wildlife, especially for migratory bird species. .

Every year, light pollution contributes to the deaths of millions of birds from collisions. Excessive artificial light at night can disorient birds during their migration, leading to fatal collisions with illuminated buildings, communication towers, and other structures.

“Although most birds in our country remain in the same areas throughout their lives and move to feed or nest, there are other species that have developed adaptations that allow them to travel long distances and use different habitats throughout the annual cycle. It is about migrations, those displacements that some birds carry out -between their place of reproduction and other locations- in an innate and cyclical way in fixed seasons of the year; they move to find food, shelter and rest”, pointed out the organization dedicated to the conservation of the environment.

According to the Guide to Migratory Species of Biodiversity in Colombia, the country ranks first in birds in the world with 1,954 species, of which 275 are migratory, and of these, at least 154 species come from North Americain search of forests, wetlands, estuaries and beaches where they will remain for a few seasons until conditions change in their places of origin.

In turn, experts have identified three major routes used by birds arriving in the country from the north of the continent: the Atlantic route, which enters South America through Venezuela and the Guianas; others travel to the national territory through Central American routes and others that fly across the Gulf of Mexico and reach the Caribbean region, where they find warm temperatures and abundant food.

“During the migration season, birds fly enormous distances, which makes it a time of high energy demand, therefore, the trips are made in stages, stopping at strategic points where they can recover energy (Bayly & Chaparro- Herrera, 2015). Thus, birds require sites that provide a large amount of resources for their food and that at the same time are safe places for refuge and rest.”, indicated the Ministry of Environment.

Among some of the species that arrive in the country in their migratory transit, the migratory eagle or Eurasian sparrowhawk stands out, traveling from the south of Canada to the north of the department of Bolívar, traveling 8,800 kilometers; Canadian White-tailed Duck; the striped warbler that travels 3,5000 kilometers of non-stop flight from Alaska or northern Canada; and the elaenia austral or fiofío grande, which comes from the south of the continent.

“The hunting, water and soil contamination due to the use of pesticides and herbicides, and the destruction of key ecosystems such as beaches, mangroves, wetlands or forests, due to deforestation, are considered the main threats faced by migratory birds”, concluded the Environment portfolio.

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