Six Marine Flyways

Launch of the Marine Flyways Concept

To celebrate this year’s World Migratory Bird Day, BirdLife International launched the Marine Flyway concept. Over 200 attendees joined a hybrid seminar on the 12th of October to learn more about the Flyways framework and it’s utility and opportunity for conservation.


Migratory bird populations are some of the most threatened, and the conservation of species that travel vast distance and rely on sites across many countries can be complicated, requiring a coordinated response at a global scale. The flyways concept can provide a framework to forge international collaboration and has helped coordinate conservation efforts for migratory birds.



Marine Flyways Launch event. Presentations from Martin Harper (BirdLife interim CEO; top left), Tammy Davies (BirdLife Marine Science Coordinator; top right), Joanne Morten (BirdLife Marine Science Officer; bottom right) and Nina Mikander (BirdLife Head of Global Policy). 



Flyways are the consistent and repeatable routes followed by multiple species of migrating birds. BirdLife International has a successful Global Flyways Programme, which connects conservation organisations along the flyways to coordinate conservation action. The eight recognised major flyways cover the planet’s terrestrial and coastal regions.


Seabirds are one of the most threatened groups of birds and migratory seabird species also follow flyways, but many of these are over the oceans and not represented by the current flyways. To address this, BirdLife led an analysis of seabird tracking data to identify the Marine Flyways. Decades of tracking data were collated, from 48 long-distance migratory seabird species and over 1000 individual seabirds, to identify six major Marine Flyways: the Atlantic Ocean Flyway, North Indian Ocean Flyway, East Indian Ocean Flyway, West Pacific Ocean Flyway, Pacific Ocean Flyway and Southern Ocean Flyway.


The six Marine Flyways identified through seabird tracking data


The tracking data used in the analysis were shared by over 60 seabird researchers via the Seabird Tracking Database. Briefly, the analytical methods to create the Marine Flyways from the compilation of tracking data involved grouping individual migratory routes based on their shape, but independent of timings, and then visualising the different grouped routes using line density estimation. A manuscript is being prepared which will explain the approach and the detail of the Marine Flyways.


The identification of the Marine Flyways is just the beginning, and next steps include: identifying additional key areas along the flyways and where threats may occur, connecting conservation organisations across the flyways, and promotion of the Marine Flyways concept at the International policy arena to help drive action for the conservation of seabirds.




If you would like to hear more about the Marine Flyways, you can re-watch the launch event, and you can view all Marine Flyways here. The Marine Flyways will feature in a keynote presentation by Tammy Davies at the BOU Global Flyways Conference (21 – 22 Nov). Register here.
This work was funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) through a grant to the Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative. The German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Nuclear Safety and Consumer Protection (BMUV) supports this initiative on the basis of a decision adopted by the German Bundestag.