World Migratory Bird Day: How Bird Migration Helps Sustain the Amazon Rainforest

May 11, 2024

Chivi Vireo  (Vireo chivi)

It’s a great day to be a birder! Each year on the second Saturday of May in North America, bird enthusiasts near and far come together to celebrate and raise awareness for the importance of migratory bird conservation. While migration for some birds is an important element of their life cycle to ensure the longevity and reproduction of their species, it also acts as a vital contributor to the ecological balance in the Amazon and other various ecosystems. 

This year, World Migratory Bird Day focuses on the importance of insects, which are a key element in the diet of many migratory birds, providing essential nutrients and energy needed to breed and travel long distances. In turn, birds play a crucial role in the natural food chain, helping to control pest and insect populations to minimize disruptions to the ecosystem. Leading up to their migration, birds enter a state called hyperphagia, which gives them the feeling of insatiable hunger that leads them to consume as much food as possible to build up energy in their systems. Their journey and destination choice are largely dependent on the availability of food sources, so protecting insect species to fuel the migration of these bird species is critical. Likewise, it’s important to maintain a balanced bird population to prevent insect overpopulation, which could lead to overwhelming the ecosystem with serious negative impacts on plants and agriculture.

The Amazon is a critical wintering ground (a location where birds migrate to spend the winter months) for numerous “neotropical migratory birds”, which are birds that fly to South America (or other tropical areas) from other regions during the winter months to take advantage of the warmer climate and abundant food resources. During their seasonal stay, not only are they helping control insect and pest populations, but they are also contributing to seed dispersal, pollination, and nutrient cycling in the forest. Our Wayqecha and Manu Biological Stations currently protect about 10,000 acres of forest home to key insect and bird species, helping to ensure longevity and keep populations stable. As of 2018, 32 species of migratory birds have been identified at our biological stations, with our Manu Biological Station holding the most among our 3 stations with 26 species identified. 

Sulphur-bellied Flycatcher
Broad-Winged Hawk

The incredibly vast array of biodiversity within the Amazon provides critical habitat and food resources for birds from across the continent. Protecting tropical forests not only helps ensure the well-being of migratory birds but also so future generations can experience such a spectacle. Bird migration is more than just a sight to see: it is a vital part of many birds’ life cycles that help regulate various ecosystems. Our feathered friends act as seed dispersers, insect and pest controllers, pollinators, and nutrient cycling that keep forests healthy, so if you ever have the opportunity to witness such an important natural event, be sure to remember all they do for us and our planet!