BirdLife International launches marine flyways

BirdLife International has unveiled its Marine Flyways – the six major routes that migratory seabirds regularly use to travel between their breeding and non-breeding areas. A special preview event on 12 October 2023 introduced the concept to more than 100 participants at an event at BirdLife HQ in Cambridge UK and online, ahead of the official launch on World Migratory Bird Day (14 October 2023).

Flyways are the major routes followed repeatedly and consistently by migrating birds between their breeding and non-breeding areas. Using a vast amount of tracking data from long-distance migratory seabirds, BirdLife International have identified six Marine Flyways which complement the nine existing flyways identified for water and land birds and showcased in their global flyways portfolio. Marine Flyways represent the patterns of the journeys taken by long-distance migrants viewed at the sea-basin scale: in other words, the super-highways used by birds independent of species or timing of migration.

Marine flyways are the major routes migratory seabirds regularly use to travel between their breeding and non-breeding areas. Infographic courtesy BirdLife International

The Marine Flyways were identified by mapping the journeys of more than 1,000 seabirds from 48 different species and five seabird families, using data from the Seabird Tracking Database – a data platform for seabird researchers to share their tracking data, which now holds more than 30 million locations recorded from 160 seabird species and contributions from more than 275 seabird researchers. Both the database and the Marine Flyways work was supported by GOBI’s grant from the International Climate Initiative.

Seabirds are one of the most threatened groups of birds and many are migratory, undertaking incredible journeys, including from pole-to-pole or circumnavigating the globe, but the immense distances involved makes seabird conservation challenging. Flyways can provide a pretext for linking countries, continents and people: they provide a framework for coordinated intergovernmental conservation action and have successfully led to partnerships to address major land-based threats for species and sites. Such multilateral coordination chimes well with the mandates and policy agendas of the Convention on Migratory Species and the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Global Biodiversity Framework. In particular, as countries work to meet global commitments of protecting 30% of marine areas by 2030, considering connectivity across sites that are important for species will be critical to building a well-connected network of marine protected areas.

You can view the video recording of the presentations given at the Marine Flyways launch event here:

Tammy Davies presents marine flyways at the launch event at BirdLife International’s HQ in Cambridge, UK.