An incredible journey

The African-Eurasian flyway spans across Europe, Asia and Africa; from Greenland, all the way down to South Africa. And every year, millions of birds fly up and down this bird superhighway to reach their breeding and wintering grounds.

Migrating birds can cover thousands of kilometres in their annual travels. Many birds often travel the same route year after year. Different species may travel through different routes towards the same destination; while some birds have one single route designated for their spring migration, and another one for their autumn migration. Birds embarking on their first migration often do so alone, and find their winter home despite never having been there before. Incredible, isn’t it?

The Mediterranean Sea is one of the many obstacles some migrating birds face along their travels. Some smaller birds that have enough energy to keep flapping will cross the Mediterranean wherever they can, but many soaring birds head for the narrowest crossing points. Some go west, via Tarifa or Gibraltar, where Europe’s coast is only 25 km from Africa. Others fly east, crossing the Bosphorus in Turkey, or avoiding the Black Sea through Georgia. They prefer to stay over land, so they cross Lebanon and follow the Rift Valley. In spring and autumn, thousands of storks, kites and other large birds gather at these points. They wait for thermals – which only form over land – to lift them up high enough. Then, they glide over the sea and avoid flapping as much as possible to save energy.

Millions of birds cross another enormous obstacle: the Sahara Desert. With blistering hot days, freezing nights, strong headwinds and little to no food or water around; the fact that migratory birds cross this expanse twice a year is quite simply astounding.

From the smallest songbird to the strongest raptor, a wide range of species can be found along the African-Eurasian flyway. Although they may have different sizes and destinations, many of them have at least one thing in common: they are all at risk of being poached.