International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) is the brainchild of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center (SMBC). The Center is dedicated to fostering greater understanding, appreciation, and protection of the grand phenomenon of bird migration. In the early 1990s, SMBC staff recognized that a public program would enable thousands of people to learn about migratory birds, their migrations, and their conservation. IMBD was created in the early 1990s, and the first celebration was hosted at the National Zoo in Washington D.C. in 1993.
As our programs continued to grow, we recognized the need to modify and expand our international conservation campaign. In December 2017, Environment for the Americas (EFTA) formalized an innovative partnership with the Convention on Migratory Species and the Agreement on the Conservation of African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbirds. This new alliance furthers migratory bird conservation around the globe by creating a worldwide campaign organized around the planet’s major migratory bird corridors, the African-Eurasian, the East Asian-Australasian, and the Americas. By promoting the same event name, annual conservation theme, and messaging, we combine our voices into a global chorus to boost the recognition and appreciation of migratory birds and highlight the urgent need for their conservation.
Following considerable deliberation and a public vote, the unified global campaign is now called World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), instead of International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD). EFTA continues to focus its efforts on the flyways in the Americas to highlight the need to conserve migratory birds and protect their habitats, which range from Canada to Argentina and the Caribbean.
Coordination of IMBD at the international level was turned over to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in 1995. The program grew rapidly, particularly in the United States. By 2005, it was clear that the program would need more oversight and dedicated staff to keep up with the demand. The search began for a new home. Environment for the Americas (EFTA), a non-profit organization that works throughout the Western Hemisphere to share information about birds and their conservation, has been coordinating IMBD (now WMBD) since 2007.
The official date for WMBD in the U.S. and Canada is the second Saturday in May each year. We recognize, however, that this isn’t always the best time for you or the birds. For participants to the south, migratory birds may have already passed through. And to the north, this date may be too early. We encourage you to host a program, event, or festival when birds are present and when it best suits your schedule. Today, WMBD programs, events, and festivals are held year-round.
May is not an ideal time to celebrate migratory birds in countries to the south! On the birds’ wintering grounds, the official date for WMBD is the second Saturday in October. The date varies throughout the region as well. In Costa Rica, IMBD is recognized in April. In Caribbean countries, in October. And festivities in Colombia begining September.
A WMBD event provides the public an opportunity to learn about birds and their conservation. Our hope is that organizers will not only share the amazing world of birds with their students, members, and visitors, but will also leave them with tangible, practical ways to take part in bird conservation. WMBD events vary from morning bird walks, to classroom programs, public presentations, bird counts, one-day events, and multi-day festivals.
You name it! WMBD is hosted by many different groups, and often, events and programs are hosted by multiple partners.
We work with all of the following and more:
Local, state, and national parks
Local, state, and national wildlife refuges
Public and private schools
EFTA has become the source of bird conservation education materials. You may find the latest in books, activities, promotional items, and more at our online store. You will also find a number of free downloadable educational and promotional materials in the store and on our website.
This is a hard question to answer, because we depend on organizers to register their events on the Global Event Map.
Each year, Environment for the Americas staff also makes calls and locates information about the many events that take place, but we know we don’t have them all. In 2019, over 600 events were registered on the Global Event Map.
Conservation themes are selected one year prior to the event and are chosen by vote from participating biologists, scientists, and educators. Selection of the annual artist is determined by the conservation theme. Some years, we search for artists who are best suited to present this theme. In other years, we review the work of various artists. A team of WMBD advisors then selects the artist. If you are interested in becoming an WMBD artist, please write us at [email protected]. If you would like to be involved in voting on WMBD themes and titles, sign up to receive our monthly newsletter.
We are at work all year! Not only does WMBD require considerable organization, but we are also involved in a number of other bird conservation education projects, such as developing new bird education materials, improving our web-based information, and working internationally to improve bird conservation education.
WMBD sponsors are critical to its success. Their financial support enables EFTA to develop new materials, work with participants throughout the Western Hemisphere, and share information about migratory bird conservation with over 500,00 people annually.