Our first ever Birds of Prey Day event is this Sunday, April 22. Coincidentally, this year also happens to be the Year of the Bird! The Audubon Society and National Geographic, along with over 50 other partners, have declared 2018 the Year of the Bird in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act (MBTA). This landmark legislation has saved millions of birds, but is now in danger of losing its ability to protect them. Read on to learn more about this vitally important conservation law!
What is the MBTA?
In 1918, U.S. Congress created the Migratory Bird Treaty Act as part of a treaty with Great Britain (acting on behalf of Canada). The two countries agreed to stop all hunting of migratory birds that are beneficial or harmless to man. The treaty existed because several species of bird were hunted to the point of near extinction. Eventually the U.S. signed similar treaties with Mexico, Japan, and Russia. Over time, the law has evolved to include almost every species of bird native to the United States. Now, the law also covers incidental bird deaths caused by industries such as wind farms, oil and gas companies, and electricity companies. Before, industries like these had been responsible for millions of easily preventable bird deaths every year. As a result of the MBTA, many companies now work with wildlife programs and conservation groups to develop simple, cost-effective ways to limit incidental deaths.
Why is it important?
The MBTA has already saved many birds from extinction. Notable examples include the Snowy Egret, the Bald Eagle, and the Sandhill Crane. All of these species were brought back from the brink of extinction thanks to the protections put in place by the MBTA. However, as new technologies and industries develop, birds face new threats to their well-being. Open oil pits, wind turbines, and cell phone towers are just a few of the modern challenges birds encounter. The implementation of the MBTA must continue to evolve to protect birds from these hazards. Currently, a bill is circulating in Congress that if passed, would no longer hold industries accountable for incidental bird deaths. In short, this bill would effectively take the teeth out of the MBTA, putting birds at risk. In order to continue protecting them, the Migratory Bird Treaty Act must be properly enforced and supported. You can find more information here.
Even though we don’t participate in any bird-specific conservation programs (although we do have three species of birds here), wildlife conservation is very important to us here at the zoo; our very own great horned owl, Darwin, is a rescue! As such, we’re very excited to show him off during our Birds of Prey Day event so that we can bring attention to conservation efforts for all animals.