By Madiba Singhateh

This is that time of the year when migratory birds journey from the Northern parts of Europe to escape the hostile winter season, to the deep south in Africa and other parts of the world, south of the Mediterranean.

According to researchers, various numbers of species of birds, migrate to the deep-south, but that some areas south of Europe, receive these flying feathered guests in higher proportions, than others.

According to the research, the two primary source of their travel is food and nesting place. As winter approaches and the availability insects and other sources of food drop, birds move to the southern hemisphere where they can get food and nest. Escaping the hash cold weather is a motivating factor but many bird species including hummingbirds, can withstand freezing temperatures as long as an adequate supply of food is available to them. Sedentary birds on the other hand, do not migrate.

The most famous long distance migrant birds are termed as ‘regular migrants’ such as swallows which breed in Europe and spend the winter in Africa.

It’s stated that even blackbirds could be winter visitors from Eastern Europe, to less cooler places in southern Europe.

The most striking evidence that birds were migrating came in 1822 when a Germany hunter shot down a white stork with a curious appendage of an arrow impaled through its neck. The arrow was from central Africa, leading naturalists conclude that the stork had travelled thousands of miles. In 1906 bird-watchers started putting rings on the legs of white storks and began learning where they wintered in sub-Saharan Africa.

Scientists and bird-watchers have uncovered the migrations of thousands of avian species. Nearly half of known bird species are migratory, moving from one habitat to another, with the change of seasons and their migration routes have emerged after years of adaptation. Some researchers speculate that migration arose when birds in the tropics expanded their ranges into temperate habitats. Another view is that many species originated in temperate zones and evolved to spend the colder part of the year in the tropics.

Wildlife conservationist Kawsu Jammeh of the Gambia Parks and Wildlife Conservation Office, said migratory birds fly from Europe to Africa and Asia, between the three regions through the East Atlantic flyway and the Gambia is located in North West Africa in what is called the up welling marine eco region that harbours lots of underground water; that because of the underground water that exists in West Africa, makes the area rich in fish diversity and creates fishmeal abundance for migratory birds that depend on fish, to come to the Gambia, Senegal and other West African countries; that some birds spend lots of time wintering in the Gambia, as some even stay to make a new home.

Jammeh said another reason for the migration of birds is because they are the real global citizens and they move to a series of wetlands along the East Atlantic coast, from Europe, to Morocco, Guinea Conakry, Central and Eastern Africa, for food and to breed.

Mr. Jammeh said catching some of these birds depend on national and international laws, but that there are national game hunting Laws which is part of conservation; that in the Gambia, they have species that are not protected by Law because they are considered pests that destroy crops; that there is need for their population to be reduced but not to disappear. He said they have Laws that allow game hunting.

Badala Park Bird Watchers Concerned about ‘Migratory Birds’

Yankuba Jammeh said the problems these birds encounter during migration is illegal hunting or those killing them for sport; that there are two types of bird hunting the regulated and the unregulated; that game hunters are given licences and are regulated and based on this study, they know those that are endangered; that in the Gambia, species such as storks are eaten by locals.

The bird watcher also indicated that they have what they called rare species but they come in every five or seven years; that some species come from as far as North America.

Senegambia Bird Watchers Also Express Concern

Karamba Touray and his team of bird watchers said that birds like Osprey, Caspian terns, and the Peregrine Falcon are migrant birds that visit the country regularly, but complained of the degradation of the country’s natural forest cover where they are losing their habitats; that a place like the Tujereng Woodland has almost gone disappeared; that this is the place where falcons nest; that even tourist complain of seeing the same birds every year, but are disappointed that there are dwindling, due deforestation, caused by urbanization.

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