Under the theme of 'Water: Sustaining Bird Life' the Sultanate of Oman is participating in the celebration of World Migratory Bird Day. As the spring season ends, around 4,000 species of birds, comprising 40 per cent of all birds worldwide, migrate back to their original habitats. In addition, hundreds of thousands of birds embark on challenging journeys to find safe sources of food, search for safer habitats, and avoid obstacles that hinder their lives during their long migration path.
The Sultanate of Oman is home to over 546 species of birds, some of which are residents, and others are visitors found in various Omani natural environments, such as coastal beaches, high mountain peaks, valleys, plain areas, and extended deserts, which provide a suitable location for living and breeding.
The two peak days of World Migratory Bird Day 2023 are on May 13 and October 14, reflecting the cyclical nature of seasonal bird migrations. The celebration is a call to attention to the importance of water and its associated habitats to migratory birds. Unfortunately, increasing human demand for water, human-driven pollution, and climate change threaten many water areas on which migratory birds depend.
Avian migration is a natural miracle. Migratory birds fly hundreds and thousands of kilometres to find the best ecological conditions and habitats for feeding, breeding, and raising their young. When conditions at breeding sites become unfavourable, it is time to fly to regions where conditions are better. Different birds have different migration patterns, with the majority migrating from northern breeding areas to southern wintering grounds. However, some birds breed in southern parts of Africa and migrate to northern wintering grounds, or horizontally, to enjoy the milder coastal climates in winter. Other birds reside in lowlands during the winter months and move up a mountain for the summer.
Migratory birds have the perfect morphology and physiology to fly fast and across long distances. The Red Knot, for instance, travels up to 16,000 kilometres twice a year, breeding in Siberia and overwintering on the west coast of Africa, with some even going down to the tip of South Africa. They navigate with pinpoint accuracy, orientated by the sun during the day, the stars at night, and the geomagnetic field at any time. Some species can even detect polarised light, which many migrating birds may use for navigation at night.
Flying long distances involves crossing many borders between countries with differing environmental politics, legislation, and conservation measures. International cooperation among governments, NGOs, and other stakeholders is required along the entire flyway of a species to share knowledge and coordinate conservation efforts. The legal framework and coordinating instruments necessary for such cooperation are provided by multilateral environmental agreements such as CMS and AEWA.
In the Sultanate of Oman, out of 546 species of birds, some are residents. Others are visitors found in various Omani natural environments. The eastern coast of the Sultanate of Oman and its associated islands are considered a unique site for stopping many types of migratory birds between the continents of Asia, Africa, and Europe. These birds play a significant role in preserving the ecosystem, pollinating flowers, spreading seeds, and eliminating harmful pests and insects. Their presence anywhere indicates the safety and health of the site for a living.
Ornithological studies confirm that different types of birds gather together to travel in similar paths, following specific routes that include suitable habitats to rest and refuel along the course of their flight. Most species of birds have a habitat and geographical locations in which they stop during their arduous journey. Each species prefers certain places that adapt to its environmental conditions and climate. Birds reproduce during their journey in areas where they are away from some predators. Each species of bird chooses the most appropriate place to adapt.
TEXT & PHOTOS BY: YAHYA AL SALMANI