Celebrating 100 Years of Migratory Bird Conservation


Today, on International Migratory Bird Day, we recognize and celebrate the many wonderous species of migratory birds who traverse great distances in their natural cycles to reach everything from new food sources to their nesting grounds. Our respect and care for these species are deep as bird-watchers and wildlife enthusiasts alike have worked to protect them for 100 years. 2018 marks the 100 year anniversary of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act which was created a century ago to protect these species. This act, while it protects against, “… the take, possession, import, export, transport, sale, purchase, barter, or offer for sale, purchase, or barter, any migratory bird, or the parts, nests, or eggs of such a bird …” it does not protect the habitat that these species rely on.

Each year Dr. Goodall and a group of her friends and supporters visit the migration of the Sandhill cranes, one of the largest and most intact migrations of any migratory bird species to witness the beauty and wonder of this species as well as other species of endangered birds including the prairie chicken and whooping cranes. Reflecting on her experience this year, Dr. Goodall notes:

For the 17th time I experienced the awe-inspiring migration of the sandhill cranes when they arrive in Nebraska, hundreds of thousands of them, to roost at night along the Platte River and to feed on the left over grain from the corn harvest in the surrounding fields.  Each year the experience fills me with amazement – that despite all the threats to this environment  (such as the intensive agriculture that is polluting the land and river with chemicals, the draining of the wetlands, the hundreds of center pivots lowering the level of the underground aquifer) the cranes are  still able to fatten up sufficiently to make the long flight north to their breeding grounds – some as far as Siberia. And it is not only the cranes – millions of migrating water birds are sharing the same resources. It is, indeed, reason for hope.

Indeed it is a reason for hope that these migrations continue despite the threats that these species and their habitats face. We must continue to maintain the protections these birds have and work together to promote sustainable agriculture and habitat management practices that will ensure the natural migration of these species in perpetuity.

Watch the video below for some clips from the Jane Goodall Institute’s Wildlife Cameraman and Research Videographer, Bill Wallauer from some amazing clips of the sandhill cranes over the last few years:


The Jane Goodall Institute is a global community conservation organization that advances the vision and work of Dr. Jane Goodall. By protecting chimpanzees and inspiring people to conserve the natural world we all share, we improve the lives of people, animals and the environment. Everything is connected—everyone can make a difference.

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About Author

Shawn Sweeney is a senior director of community engagement at the Jane Goodall Institute and works to create connections among the organizations staff, constituents, supporters and the wider world. Shawn has been involved with the Jane Goodall Institute since 2004 when as a college student he led a group of fellow students in Jane Goodall's Roots & Shoots at the College of Wooster. Shawn has a masters of education in humane education and has been working in service learning and communications with the Jane Goodall Institute since 2007 when he joined the staff.