East Asian–Australasian Flyway

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Central Asian, East Asian–Australasian, and West Pacific migratory bird flyways

The East Asian–Australasian Flyway is one of the world's great flyways of migratory birds. 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.[1] 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.

Flyway Site Network[edit]

During migration, water birds rely on a system of highly productive wetlands to rest and feed, building up sufficient energy to fuel the next phase of their journey. International cooperation across their migratory range is therefore essential to conserve and protect migratory water birds and the habitats on which they depend.[2] East Asian-Australasian Flyway Partnership (EAAFP) identified 1060 sites as internationally important for migratory birds.[2] These sites are called the Flyway Site Network. The sites are expected to collaborate with the local community to preserve the wetland by raising awareness regarding the importance of the site, carefully documenting the number of migratory bird populations, and strictly monitoring the vegetation condition within the site.

An important site in Alaska is the small Lake Teshekpuk, which covers just 18 percent of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, but hosts more than 40 percent of all aquatic birds visiting the Alaska North Slope.[3]


Habitat loss and degradation[edit]

The degradation of forests in South-East Asia is prominent due to large-scale logging, which affects the habitats of many songbirds that breed in forests.[4] Several songbirds, such as the Streaked Reed Warbler and the Black-Throated Robin, have been listed as either vulnerable or endangered. Coastal marshes, freshwater, and flooded grasslands are important food sources for songbirds like the family of Locustellidae, but many of these natural habitats are either converted to agricultural land or threatened by drainage.[5][6] In response to the damage of wetlands and forests, many countries have implemented new forestry policies. An example of this is China's Natural Forest Protection Plan, which is expected to increase forest cover in eastern and southern China.[7]

Land reclamation of the coastal mudlats of the Yellow Sea (with over 65% of mudflats lost)[8][9] has led to major population declines in migratory waders.[6][8]


Another major threat is rampant hunting in South-East Asia. Reasons for hunting vary, but pet trade[10] and hunting for food in rural areas are the most common motives.[5] As a result of the unregulated hunting, the Yellow-breasted Bunting, whose IUCN threat status was "Least Concern" 10 years ago, has now been listed as "Vulnerable".[11] In parts of Cambodia and Thailand, migratory songbirds including swallows and Great Reed Warblers are caught for religious "mercy releases", resulting in thousands of deaths.[12][13]

Conservation Priorities[edit]

According to a holistic review of current research, the demographics, habitat distribution, and survival rate of many endangered species remain ambiguous. Studies about these areas in the key habitats along the flyway may prove useful to conservation of migratory birds.[5] Besides, the current Flyway Site Network mainly focuses on water birds, neglecting the protection of remained migratory birds. Scientists claim that organizations and laws focusing on protecting these birds may be needed.[5]

Roles of Birders[edit]

The birding community in Asia is increasing rapidly, especially in China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Philippines, due to a growing middle class.[14] Despite language barriers, the e-bird system has successfully assisted birding communication across national boundaries, contributing to the development of EAAF.[15] For example, the collective data from birders have contributed to many research projects, such as filling the gap of distribution of the Rufous-Headed Robin in Cambodia.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "The Flyway". Eaaflyway. 2017-11-07. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  2. ^ a b "Flyway Site Network of East Asian-Australasian Flyway promote collaborative effort to safeguard migratory waterbirds". Eaaflyway. 2018-12-13. Retrieved 2021-03-14.
  3. ^ "Alaska's petroleum reserve is open for drilling. Will the birds survive?". National Geographic. 2019-09-10. Archived from the original on April 11, 2021. Retrieved 2023-03-06.
  4. ^ Linkie, Matthew; Smith, Robert J.; Leader-Williams, Nigel (2004-09-01). "Mapping and predicting deforestation patterns in the lowlands of Sumatra". Biodiversity & Conservation. 13 (10): 1809–1818. doi:10.1023/B:BIOC.0000035867.90891.ea. ISSN 1572-9710. S2CID 6306449.
  5. ^ a b c d Yong, Ding Li; Liu, Yang; Low, Bing Wen; Española, Carmela P.; Choi, Chang-Yong; Kawakami, Kazuto (2015). "Migratory songbirds in the East Asian-Australasian Flyway: a review from a conservation perspective". Bird Conservation International. 25 (1): 1–37. doi:10.1017/S0959270914000276. hdl:1885/13393. ISSN 0959-2709.
  6. ^ a b WEIPAN LEI; JOSÉ A. MASERO; THEUNIS PIERSMA; BINGRUN ZHU; HONG-YAN YANG; ZHENGWANG ZHANG (17 September 2018). "Alternative habitat: the importance of the Nanpu Saltpans for migratory waterbirds in the Chinese Yellow Sea" (PDF). Bird Conservation International. 28 (4): 549–566. doi:10.1017/S0959270917000508. ISSN 0959-2709. Wikidata Q104351843.
  7. ^ Li, Hongmei; Aide, T. Mitchell; Ma, Youxin; Liu, Wenjun; Cao, Min (2007). "Demand for rubber is causing the loss of high diversity rain forest in SW China". Biodiversity and Conservation. 16 (6): 1731–1745. doi:10.1007/s10531-006-9052-7. ISSN 0960-3115. S2CID 20175278.
  8. ^ a b Colin E Studds; Bruce E Kendall; Nicholas J Murray; et al. (13 April 2017). "Rapid population decline in migratory shorebirds relying on Yellow Sea tidal mudflats as stopover sites" (PDF). Nature Communications. 8 (1): 14895. Bibcode:2017NatCo...814895S. doi:10.1038/NCOMMS14895. ISSN 2041-1723. PMC 5399291. PMID 28406155. Wikidata Q33587083.
  9. ^ Nicholas J Murray; Robert S Clemens; Stuart R Phinn; Hugh P Possingham; Richard A Fuller (June 2014). "Tracking the rapid loss of tidal wetlands in the Yellow Sea" (PDF). Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment. 12 (5): 267–272. doi:10.1890/130260. ISSN 1540-9295. Wikidata Q55868653.
  10. ^ Shepherd, C. R. (2006) The bird trade in Medan, North Sumatra: an overview. BirdingASIA 5: 16–24.
  11. ^ Chan, S. (2004) Yellow-breasted Bunting Emberiza aureola. BirdingASIA 1: 16–17.
  12. ^ Gilbert, Martin; Sokha, Chea; Joyner, Priscilla H.; Thomson, Robert L.; Poole, Colin (2012-06-29). "Characterizing the trade of wild birds for merit release in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and associated risks to health and ecology". Biological Conservation. 153: 10–16. doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2012.04.024.
  13. ^ McClure, H. E. and Chaiyaphun, S. (1971) The sale of birds at the Bangkok “Sunday Market” Thailand. Nat. Hist. Bull. Siam Soc. 24: 41–78.
  14. ^ Ma, Zhijun; Cheng, Yixin; Wang, Junyan; Fu, Xinghua (2013). "The rapid development of birdwatching in mainland China: a new force for bird study and conservation". Bird Conservation International. 23 (2): 259–269. doi:10.1017/S0959270912000378. ISSN 0959-2709.
  15. ^ Wood, Chris; Sullivan, Brian; Iliff, Marshall; Fink, Daniel; Kelling, Steve (2011-12-20). "eBird: Engaging Birders in Science and Conservation". PLOS Biology. 9 (12): e1001220. doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.1001220. ISSN 1545-7885. PMC 3243722. PMID 22205876.
  16. ^ Mahood, S. P., Eaton, J. A. and Leader, P. J. (2013a) Second record of Rufous-headed Robin Luscinia ruficeps outside its breeding range and a description of its first-winter plumage. BirdingAsia 19: 43–47.

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