Namibia: Human Land Use Endangers Migratory Birds

by May 12, 2011Birds

COLD sea temperatures bring the Black Tern to Namibia’s coast around September and October, says avid birder Mark Boorman.

Boorman, who runs a project to ring Black Terns on the Namibian coast to determine their origins, says birds that have been recorded came from as far as Holland, Latvia and the Ukraine.

The Black Tern (Chlidonias niger) is one of the migratory birds that travel long distances in search of food and good living conditions and they come to Namibia’s coast as there is an abundance of food as a result of the cold sea and upwelling system. Their usual is krill and small fish.

Boorman says he has so far ringed over 4 000 birds at the coast. In March and April, the Black Tern returns to the northern hemisphere.

Asked if the Black Tern is safe at the Namibian coast, Boorman said they are but global warming would affect their food source.

The Black Tern is a small tern, generally found in or near inland water in Europe and North America. As its name suggests, it has predominantly dark plumage.

Year after year, majestic flocks of migratory birds depart on their journeys in search of food or safer breeding sites.

“Each year, more and more of the sites migratory birds depend on during their journeys disappear. As these ecosystems change, there is no guarantee that the habitats migratory birds need along their migration paths will be there the next time they return,” said two international wildlife treaties in a joint statement.

The African-Eurasia Migratory Waterbird Agreement and the Convention on Migratory Species, administered by the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), said deforestation and mineral extraction can degrade entire regions used along the birds’ migration paths.

In addition, land reclamation and biofuel production remove or degrade crucial wetlands and other habitats for many migratory bird species.

This year’s theme for World Migratory Bird Day, to be marked from May 14 to 15, is ‘Land use changes from a bird’s eye view’.

The theme is aimed at raising awareness of the dramatic effect human land use has on migratory birds and the ecosystems. The World Migratory Bird Day is a global annual awareness campaign to promote the conservation of migratory birds and their habitats worldwide.