Migratory birds across borders

Whether waders or sea birds, they are all in essence migratory birds that share their lives between Africa and Europe. Our coastline, stretching from Mauritania to Sierra Leone through Cape Verde, is home to a large section of these passport-free travellers.

Migratory waders

From September to April, our shores are populated with small waders that feed on worms, crabs, small fishes and shells in times of low tide. Around the month of March, these birds get ready to migrate to Europe and Siberia for nesting. In preparation for this travel of 6,000 to 8,000 kms, they spend a significant amount of time eating night and day in order to gain nearly half of their body weight in fat, which will provide their main fuel. While some species travel to Europe non-stop, others need to restore their energy levels several times during the crossing. The record distance travelled at one go belongs to a bar-tailed godwit that flew 11,680 km for 8 days at a stretch. Waders have barely two months to reproduce when they get to the northern lands. From August onwards, nights become longer, the cold weather sets in and food preys become scarce. This is when they travel back southward to reach our sub-region in October, generally in a state of exhaustion.


PRCM member countries are also very much visited by seabirds in the course of their migration or reproductive phase. A number of species, such as the arctic tern, would just cross the sub-region during a return trip of 80,000 km between the Arctic and Antarctic on a yearly basis during their 20 years of existence. Others settle in colonies on islands along the coastline to nest away from predators. This is the case of sterns, greater flamingos, pelicans, herons and tufts, cormorants, most of them feeding on fishes. These birds also migrate after their young have left the nest, including puffins from Cape Verde that spread out off the coasts of Senegal but also of South America.

How useful are these birds?

All of these species play a leading role in the ecological functioning of the coastal and marine zone and provide useful indicators on the health of our environment. In strict economic terms, their value mainly depends on nature tourism. This activity is becoming widespread in Northern countries, and attracts an increasing number of visitors in Senegal and the Gambia. According to a study conducted in the United States in 2011, the economic value of bird tourism is estimated at 41 US $ billion per year.

A shared responsibility

All these migratory waterbirds belong to all the countries that make up their distribution area and which, consequently, must share the responsibility for their conservation. We must therefore feel encouraged to work in collaboration under existing partnerships, such as PRCM. International conventions, including the RAMSAR Convention on Wetlands or the African-Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), are also fora where European countries could be urged to support efforts made by African countries to protect migratory birds that represent a common heritage, a living link between the North and the South

What do PRCM’s partners do?

Alcyon Project: Protecting offshore areas key to seabirds



Flamingo Project: Preserving flamingo species and habitats in Marine Protected Areas across the sub-region



Protecting shearwaters in Cape Verde: NGOs-fishermen collaboration to end human consumption of flamingo chicks



International waterbird census:



Study and protection of waterbirds and parrots in the Bijagos Archipelago



Migratory bird conservation project: scientific review of migratory birds and their main sites and habitats in West Africa



Most of key sites for migratory waterbirds are protected within the Regional Marine Protected Areas Network of West Africa




A flying bar-tailed godwit (photograph by Hellio & Van Ingem): this species holds the record of the longest distance travelled non-stop