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View from Sapsucker Woods: 2018 Is the Year of the Bird

Red-tailed Hawk by David Speiser
Red-tailed Hawk by David Speiser.

From the Winter 2018 issue of Living Bird magazine. Subscribe now.

In 2016 many bird enthusiasts and organizations, including the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, cel­ebrated the centennial of the signing of a Migratory Bird Treaty between the Unit­ed States and Great Britain (the latter an agent for the Commonwealth of Cana­da). This agreement to end the hunting of nongame birds in the U.S. and Canada would become a global cornerstone for bird conservation, but there was a catch: The U.S. Constitution requires that inter­national treaties be ratified by the Pres­ident only after approval by two-thirds of the Senate. Ratification was complet­ed with passage of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, making 2018 the true centennial year for this profoundly influ­ential international prohibition to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill, or sell most spe­cies of North American native birds. In 1936 the U.S. passed a similar act with Mexico. Today these agreements ensure that wild birds warrant full protection under the law across North America.

To honor this treaty’s centennial, the Cornell Lab is joining with National Geographic, National Audubon Society, BirdLife International, and more than 50 other partners to celebrate 2018 as the “Year of the Bird.” Our goal is to engage and inspire people around the world to commit to protecting birds today and for the next 100 years. Through social media, publica­tions, and a Year of the Bird website, our messages will include stories about scien­tific discoveries, conservation successes, bird species in peril, and specific conser­vation actions—both personal and collec­tive—that can make a difference in revers­ing declines among bird populations. Each month of 2018 we will highlight actions that individuals can take to help wild birds.

The Cornell Lab will play heightened roles during three months in the Year of the Bird that will constitute the world’s largest collaborative effort to document bird across the planet. Partners will join us in encouraging and supporting hun­dreds of organizations all over the world in rallying their local public to get outside, enjoy their birds, and enter their counts, observations, and images into eBird. We’ll kick off the effort with the Great Backyard Bird Count during February 16 to 19. Every tally will contribute to a global snapshot at the fas­cinating moment when birds wintering in the Southern Hemisphere are stirring and heading back northward, and as res­ident birds such as chickadees and cardi­nals are beginning to sing. Next up will be the Global Big Day on May 5, and for the first time ever, a second Global Big Day on October 6. As birding reaches a fever pitch during these times of peak migra­tion, we invite everyone to join the global quest to find as many species as possible in a single day, generating unprecedented volumes of data for international use in science and conservation.

Three things are paramount in celebrating 2018 as the Year of the Bird. First is recognizing the power of birds—as global indicators of biodiversity, as heartbeats of the earth’s annual cycle, and as the most captivating window we have into nature. Second is the essential power of partnerships—among con­servation organizations of every scale and every country, and among indi­viduals, families, schools, and commu­nity groups, all uniting for a common purpose across the globe. Third is that 100 years after passage of the Migra­tory Bird Treaty Act, birds all over the world are facing unprecedented threats to their existence. They need our atten­tion and help now more than ever. So, throughout 2018 as we fully enjoy and celebrate birds, let us also commit to increasing our personal and collective investments in their future. Please join us by visiting the 2018 Year of the Bird website.

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American Kestrel by Blair Dudeck / Macaulay Library

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