Monday May 27, 2024

Why birds need bugs

Theme for World Migratory Day 2024 focused on role and relationship of insects in our ecosystem for migratory birds

By Zile Huma
May 14, 2024
Migratory birds fly through the sky of southern Lebanon March 28, 2021. — Reuters
Migratory birds fly through the sky of southern Lebanon March 28, 2021. — Reuters

World Migratory Day 2024 is celebrated every year on May 11 to highlight the importance of migratory birds in our ecosystem and sensitize people to take steps for their protection.

The theme for World Migratory Day 2024 focused on the role and relationship of insects in our ecosystem for migratory birds. Insects play a crucial role in the survival and successful migration of birds. However, there are several threats faced by insects that also undermine the survival of migratory birds.

First, deforestation leads to the loss of habitat for insects. Urban expansion, construction of housing colonies, and agricultural growth have rapidly eliminated forest cover from the surface of earth. According to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), up to 15 billion trees are now being cut down every year across the world. So, the loss of forests leads to the extinction of many species including insects.

Resultantly, migratory birds do not get enough food and energy for their migration journey. As migratory birds cannot carry a large amount of food along them during their journey, they need to rely on insects living in forests, wetlands, and mountains to meet their food needs. This link between insects and birds is so strong that bird migration also coincides with the season when insects are abundantly available on their routes to their destinations.

Similarly, the extinction of insects at the breeding sites of migratory birds also disturbs the breeding cycle of birds. Insects are a rich source of proteins, calcium, and vitamins required for healthy breeding of migratory birds. As a consequence, the survival and growth of migratory bird populations is under threat.

Another challenge for insects is the use of pesticides and insecticides to get better crop yields. The expansion of the agriculture sector and new experiments to protect crops from insects and animals have led to the vanishing of many species of insects. This also creates the problem of feeding migratory birds, thus endangering their existence. In addition to that, migratory birds play an important role in pollination and pest control which is necessary for a healthy ecosystem. The non-survival of migratory birds may also disrupt the sustainable ecosystem.

Similarly, negative impacts of climate change like heatwaves, floods, and extraordinary cold winters also impact the growth and survival of insects that can also affect the migration of the birds. The University of Sydney has estimated that more than one billion mammals, birds, and reptiles, as well as “hundreds of billions” of insects have died in the Australian bushfires. The reason for these fires was the scorching heat.

Changed weather patterns are also disturbing the migrating seasons of birds. This also disturbs the linkages of the migration of birds with the availability of insects on their routes as a source of food. So, climate change is another challenge faced by migratory birds to fight for their survival and sustain a healthy ecosystem.

Migratory birds are an ignored subject and are given secondary importance. Experts and officials who are associated with the conservation of the environment and protection of our ecosystem are generally aware of this subject and the challenges to protect them. Ordinary people normally do not have the interest or knowledge to pay attention to such subjects. Pakistan is also home to various migratory ducks, cranes, geese, flamingos, swans, flacons, waders, etc. These migratory birds are facing similar challenges in Pakistan.

This year’s theme ‘World Migratory Birds’ emphasizes the relationship between insects and migratory birds to protect the species of migratory birds. So, the strong relationship between birds’ migration and insects calls on the nations and individuals on World Migratory Day to strengthen this relationship for a healthy ecosystem.

This day is celebrated to create awareness among decision-makers and people about the importance of migratory birds and their connection to insects in our ecosystem. It also focuses on ensuring the steps necessary like prevention of deforestation, use of pesticides/herbicides, and promotion of organic farming to stop the extinction of insects.

It also requires awareness campaigns through the media especially social media to inform our youth about this important issue. Seminars and conferences at education institutions can further help disseminate knowledge about modern practices and strategies adopted worldwide to protect migratory birds among experts. Indigenous r research can also help resolve many local challenges to preserve the species of migratory birds.

All these steps require attention and commitment at the local, national, and international levels for solid implementation. It is essential to understand the relationship between migratory birds and insects and take steps for our healthy ecosystem. This is only possible through the collaboration of the public and private sectors to tackle existing challenges.

The writer is a graduate of University of Oxford in Public Policy. She tweets/posts @zilehumma_1