The Secrets of Migratory Birds’ Navigation in Pakistan

Every year, millions of migratory birds fly across continents and oceans, covering thousands of miles, to find food, shelter and breeding grounds. Some of these birds make Pakistan their temporary or permanent home, enriching the country's biodiversity and providing ecological services. But how do these birds navigate such long distances without getting lost? And what are the challenges and opportunities for their conservation in Pakistan?

Migratory birds use a variety of cues and strategies to orient themselves and find their way. Some of these include the sun, the stars, the earth's magnetic field, landmarks, wind patterns, and even their own sense of smell. Some birds also learn from their parents or other experienced individuals, following them along established routes called flyways.

Pakistan lies on one of the major flyways of the world, known as the Central Asian Flyway, which covers a large area of Eurasia between the Indian Ocean and the Arctic Ocean. This flyway is used by many species of waterbirds, such as ducks, geese, cranes, flamingos, swans, waders and gulls, as well as raptors, such as falcons and eagles. These birds migrate from their breeding grounds in Siberia, Central Asia, China and Mongolia, to their wintering grounds in South Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Pakistan offers a variety of habitats for these migratory birds, such as wetlands, lakes, rivers, deltas, coasts, mountains and deserts. Some of the important sites for migratory birds in Pakistan include Rawal Lake, Haleji Lake, Keenjhar Lake, Hadbero Lake, Thatta District, Thar Desert, Rann of Kutch, Indus Delta, Makran Coast, Chitral Valley and Khunjerab National Park.

According to WWF-Pakistan, Pakistan has witnessed a rise in the population of migratory birds across its water bodies in the last two years. This is attributed to the conservation of wetlands, ban on bird hunting and awareness among locals about biodiversity protection. WWF-Pakistan has also released a video showcasing how its community conservation work has made Borith Lake in Gilgit-Baltistan a successful example of a healthy ecosystem for migratory birds.

However, migratory birds still face many threats in Pakistan, such as habitat loss and degradation due to urbanization, agriculture, pollution and climate change; illegal trade and poaching for meat, feathers and pets; collision with power lines and wind turbines; diseases and parasites; and predation by feral cats and dogs.

To protect these amazing creatures and their vital role in nature, Pakistan needs to implement effective policies and laws; enforce existing regulations and penalties; monitor and manage key sites and habitats; promote research and education; engage local communities and stakeholders; collaborate with regional and international partners; and raise public awareness and appreciation.

Migratory birds are not only beautiful and fascinating to watch, but they also connect us with other countries and cultures along their routes. They are an indicator of the health of our environment and a source of inspiration for our imagination. By protecting them and their habitats, we are also protecting ourselves and our future.

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