Protecting Long Distance Migrants

Image of a hummingbird Last month, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper gave a speech at the UN Conference on the Convention on Biological Diversity. In it, he said, “Protecting biodiversity is one of the paramount environmental challenges facing the world today.”

I could not agree more.
And Canada has to do much more to to protect “our rich natural heritage”. Just this week, I submitted to the Government of Canada through Environment Canada and Minister John Baird’s office a proposal that would help us protect Canada’s birds and important bird areas in the western hemisphere. With the help of the Quito office of Birdlife International and Ian Davidson in particular, we have an Americas-wide initiative called Tundra to Tierra del Fuego; a 38 country, 10 year, $100 million dollar endeavour to provide protection for approximately 1 billion breeding birds that call Canada home. We are asking the federal government to contribute $10 million dollars to anchor the northern end of this initiative and we will ask all the other governments in the Americas to contribute as well.

We all know our birds are important. And we know they are at risk. Environment Canada reports that nearly 1 in 10 breeding bird species in Canada is on the species at risk list and at least 50% of these migrate to Latin America and the Caribbean. One example is the Red Knot, an arctic breeding sandpiper whose population has plummeted from 100,000 to less than 20,000 in only ten years.

Almost all of the “aerial insectivores” – swallows, flycatchers, martins, swifts, Whip-poor-wills and nighthawks have suffered severe population declines, some by over 70% since the early 1960’s. Many declining species are “long-distance migrants,” breeding in Canada and spending the other seasons elsewhere in the Americas.
These species create tangible links between Canada and other countries in the Americas. Actions to protect and properly manage habitats for these species must be international by their very nature.

The Canadian government has an opportunity to announce its support for Tundra to Tierra del Fuego in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this September 22-27 at the World Birdlife Conservation Conference.

In a future blog, I will let you know more about our progress in our meetings with the Government and also more about the upcoming World Birdlife Conservation Conference, where Nature Canada will have a significant role.