Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Last updated

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is dedicated to fostering greater understanding, appreciation, and protection of bird migration.

This Smithsonian Institution research program was founded with Congressional support in 1991, and was incorporated in 1997 as part of the National Zoological Park, located in Washington, D.C.; it came under the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute, established in 2010. [1]

From an initial focus on the conservation biology of Neotropical songbirds, it now researches the role of disease in population declines in migratory birds, [2] environmental challenges facing urban and suburban birds and their adaptation to changes in natural and anthropogenic habitats and climate, [3] and the conservation biology of wetland birds. [4] Their research group has long-term research programs dealing with migratory birds in both their breeding and non-breeding areas, with studies of how specific breeding and non-breeding populations are connected by migration. [5]

In 1998 it developed the Bird Friendly coffee program [6] [7] [8] that fosters management practices at coffee farms that are good for birds while remaining marketable. Coffee grown under the program is certified [9] as shade grown and organic, with purchases supporting the conservation of migratory birds. The criteria for Bird Friendly certification was developed from basic research on migratory bird-habitat relationships by Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center scientists.

They sponsor advanced undergraduate and graduate students at collaborating institutions, as well as in-house post-doctoral fellowships. The center's education efforts include the creation of International Migratory Bird Day, [10] a holiday which is celebrated on the second Saturday of May in the United States and Canada, and on the second Saturday of October in most of Latin America.

Neighborhood Nestwatch, [11] its community-based science and educational outreach program, involves volunteers in monitoring the reproductive success and survival of birds in their communities.

Its Bridging the Americas/Unidos por las Aves program [12] is an education program that partners elementary school classes in the Washington, D.C. area with classes in Latin America and the Caribbean. The goals of the program are

  1. to teach students about the migratory birds that connect these two regions of the hemisphere and the need to protect their habitats, and
  2. to stimulate an interest in learning about other countries and their cultures.

Since 1993, over 17,000 students in grades 3 through 8 from 11 countries of the Americas have participated. [13]

Related Research Articles

Bird migration Seasonal movement of birds

Bird migration is the regular seasonal movement, often north and south along a flyway, between breeding and wintering grounds. Many species of bird migrate. Migration carries high costs in predation and mortality, including from hunting by humans, and is driven primarily by availability of food. It occurs mainly in the northern hemisphere, where birds are funneled on to specific routes by natural barriers such as the Mediterranean Sea or the Caribbean Sea.

National Zoological Park (United States) Zoo in Washington, D.C., and Front Royal, Virginia

The National Zoological Park, commonly known as the National Zoo, is one of the oldest zoos in the United States. It is part of the Smithsonian Institution and does not charge admission. Founded in 1889, its mission is to "provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats".

Northern bald ibis An endangered migratory bird found in barren and rocky habitats

The northern bald ibis, hermit ibis, or waldrapp is a migratory bird found in barren, semi-desert or rocky habitats, often close to running water. This 70–80 cm (28–31 in) glossy black ibis, which, unlike many members of the ibis family, is non-wading, has an unfeathered red face and head, and a long, curved red bill. It breeds colonially on coastal or mountain cliff ledges, where it typically lays two to three eggs in a stick nest, and feeds on lizards, insects, and other small animals.

Red knot Species of bird

The red knot is a medium-sized shorebird which breeds in tundra and the Arctic Cordillera in the far north of Canada, Europe, and Russia. It is a large member of the Calidris sandpipers, second only to the great knot. Six subspecies are recognised.

Great snipe Species of bird

The great snipe is a small stocky wader in the genus Gallinago. This bird's breeding habitat is marshes and wet meadows with short vegetation in north-eastern Europe, including north-western Russia. Great snipes are migratory, wintering in Africa. The European breeding population is in steep decline.

Sandhill crane Species of bird

The sandhill crane is a species of large crane of North America and extreme northeastern Siberia. The common name of this bird refers to habitat like that at the Platte River, on the edge of Nebraska's Sandhills on the American Plains. This is the most important stopover area for the nominotypical subspecies, the lesser sandhill crane, with up to 450,000 of these birds migrating through annually.

Whooping crane Species of large bird from North America

The whooping crane, the tallest North American bird, is an endangered crane species named for its whooping sound. Along with the sandhill crane, it is one of only two crane species native to North America. The whooping crane's lifespan is estimated to be 22 to 24 years in the wild. After being pushed to the brink of extinction by unregulated hunting and loss of habitat to just 21 wild and two captive whooping cranes by 1941, conservation efforts have led to a limited recovery. The total number of cranes in the surviving migratory population, plus three reintroduced flocks and in captivity, now exceeds 800 birds.

Yellow-throated vireo Species of bird (American songbird)

The yellow-throated vireo is a small American songbird.

American redstart Species of bird

The American redstart is a New World warbler. It is unrelated to the Old World (common) redstart.


A flyway is a flight path used by large numbers of birds while migrating between their breeding grounds and their overwintering quarters. Flyways generally span continents and often pass over oceans. Although applying to any species of migrating bird, the concept was first conceived and applied to waterfowl and shore birds. The flyways can be thought of as wide arterial highways to which the migratory routes of different species are tributaries. An alternative definition is that a flyway is the entire range of a migratory bird, encompassing both its breeding and non-breeding grounds, and the resting and feeding locations it uses while migrating. There are four major north–south flyways in North America and six covering Eurasia, Africa and Australasia.

East Asian–Australasian Flyway

The East Asian–Australasian Flyway is one of the world's great flyways. At its northernmost it stretches eastwards from the Taimyr Peninsula in Russia to Alaska. Its southern end encompasses Australia and New Zealand. Between these extremes the Flyway covers much of eastern Asia, including China, Japan, Korea, South-East Asia and the western Pacific. The EAAF is home to over 50 million migratory water birds from over 250 different populations, including 32 globally threatened species and 19 near threatened species. It is especially important for the millions of migratory waders or shorebirds that breed in northern Asia and Alaska and spend the non-breeding season in South-East Asia and Australasia.

The Institute for Bird Populations (IBP), based in Petaluma, California, is a non-profit organization dedicated to studying and monitoring bird populations, and providing land managers and policy makers with information needed to better manage those populations.

The Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory (SABO) is a nonprofit membership-supported scientific and educational organization founded in 1996 in Bisbee, Arizona, USA. The mission of the Southeastern Arizona Bird Observatory is to promote the conservation of the birds of southeastern Arizona, their habitats, and the diversity of species that share those habitats through research, monitoring, and public education. The observatory's founders are Tom Wood and Sheri Williamson, former managers of The Nature Conservancy's Ramsey Canyon Preserve.

Seattle Audubon Society is a non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting birds and the natural environment by involving volunteers and the community in education, advocacy, preservation, science and enjoyment. Founded in 1916 to observe and protect birds, it is a chapter organization of the National Audubon Society, and is one of the oldest natural history organizations in the Pacific Northwest.

Shade-grown coffee

Shade-grown coffee is a form of the crop produced from coffee plants grown under a canopy of trees. A canopy of assorted types of shade trees is created to cultivate shade-grown coffee. Because it incorporates principles of natural ecology to promote natural ecological relationships, shade-grown coffee can be considered an offshoot of agricultural permaculture or agroforestry. The resulting coffee is usually sold as "shade-grown".

Bird Day is the name of several holidays celebrating birds. Various countries observe such a holiday on various dates.

Patuxent Research Refuge

The Patuxent Research Refuge is a National Wildlife Refuge in Prince George's County, Maryland, United States, established in 1936 by executive order of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. It is the only National Wildlife Refuge in the country established to support wildlife research. With land surrounding the Patuxent and Little Patuxent Rivers between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore, Maryland, the refuge has grown from the original 2,670 acres (10.8 km2) to its present size of over 12,800 acres (52 km2) and encompasses land formerly managed by the Departments of Agriculture and Defense. Throughout decades of change, Patuxent's mission of conserving and protecting the nation's wildlife and habitat through research and wildlife management techniques has remained virtually unchanged.

Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve

Cerulean Warbler Bird Reserve, known in Spanish as Reserva Natural de las Aves Reinita Cielo Azul, is a nature reserve near Bucaramanga in central Colombia. The reserve is set among oak forest on the eastern slopes of the Magdalena River. It measures 545 acres (221 ha) and adjoins the Yariguíes National Park.

Monarch butterfly migration

Monarch butterfly migration is the phenomenon, mainly across North America, where the subspecies Danaus plexippus plexippus migrates each summer and autumn to and from overwintering sites on the West Coast of California or mountainous sites in Central Mexico. Other subspecies perform minor migrations or none at all. This massive movement of butterflies has been called "one of the most spectacular natural phenomena in the world".

Climate change in Mexico Emissions, impacts and responses of Mexico related to climate change

Climate change in Mexico is expected to have widespread impacts on Mexico: with significant decreases in precipitation and increases in temperatures. This will put pressure on the economy, people and the biodiversity of many parts of the country, which have large arid or hot climates. Already climate change has impacted agriculture, biodiversity, farmer livelihoods, and migration, as well as "water, health, air pollution, traffic disruption from floods, [and] housing vulnerability to landslides."


  1. "Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute - National Zoo | FONZ". Smithsonian. Retrieved 26 September 2012.
  2. Chong, Jia-Rui (2007-05-17). "Study tallies West Nile's toll on continent's birds". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  3. Kaplan, Janice L. (2003-05-02). "Research Program Is for the Birds". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  4. "Study: Mangrove Animals Risk Extinction". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  5. "Population Connectivity". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  6. "Think Before You Drink". 2003-02-28. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  7. "Wake Up and Smell the Bird-Friendly, Shade-Grown Coffee". 1999-07-11. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  8. "Bird Friendly coffee". Archived from the original on March 16, 2009. Retrieved 2009-07-14.CS1 maint: unfit URL (link)
  9. "Bird Friendly certification". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  10. "Bird Day History". Environment for the Americas. Retrieved 28 September 2012.
  11. "Neighborhood Nestwatch". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  12. "Migratory Birds Project". Retrieved 2009-07-14.
  13. "Bridging the Americas". Smithsonian. Retrieved 29 September 2012.