Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Birders Race to End Illegal Killing of Migrating Birds

Champions of the Flyway: Birders Race to End Illegal Killing of Migrating Birds

February 19, 2016—Marietta, Ohio— A collection of birding teams from around the world have been challenged to raise a total of $50,000 while competing in a 24-hour bird race called Champions of the Flyway on March 29, 2016, in Eilat, Israel. This event calls attention to, and raises funds to stop, the illegal killing of birds migrating along the Mediterranean-Black Sea flyway.

An estimated 500 million birds representing 600 species use this migration flyway each year, making it the second largest flyway in the world. Of these half-billion birds, an estimated 20 million are illegally killed or trapped each year while migrating, including raptors, shorebirds, and songbirds. Although the tradition of taking these non-game birds is banned in every country along the flyway, most governments turn a blind eye as these birds are shot for sport or trapped to become caged pets or exotic delicacies.

To raise awareness—and the funds required to end this practice—the Champions of the Flyway is held annually in Eilat, Israel, a migration hotspot at the heart of the flyway. The race is a team effort by BirdLife International and the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel. Each year since 2014, funds raised by the Champions event have gone toward bird conservation and education in a country along the flyway. Funds generated in 2016 will go to the Hellenic Ornithological Society, the BirdLife partner in Greece.

One of the two Champions teams hailing from the United States is the Way-Off Coursers, sponsored by Bird Watcher's Digest magazine and Carl Zeiss Sports Optics. (Coursers are an Old World family of wading birds.) The members of the Way-Off Coursers are Bill Thompson, III, publisher and editor of Bird Watcher's Digest; Ben Lizdas, sales manager at Eagle Optics; Alvaro Jaramillo of Alvaro's Adventures Birding and Nature Tours; and widely published natural history author Mark Cocker. Coursers team captain Bill Thompson, III, wrote a song and helped create a video to help generate greater awareness of the plight of migratory birds. You can hear the song and watch the "River of Birds in the Sky" video on the BWD website.

Birders can support this vital bird-conservation effort in three ways, and help the Way-Off Coursers reach their fund-raising goal of $5,000:

· Visit the Coursers page on the Just Giving website and make a donation.

· Get an official Coursers team T-shirt with your donation of $85 or more via this special donations page. These 100% cotton shirts feature the art of Julie Zickefoose.

· Download an .mp3 file of "River of Birds in the Sky" for just 99 cents, with all proceeds going to BirdLife International.

Even if you're not a participant in the race itself, you can become a flyway champion by making a donation today to this important cause.

Visit to learn more about the race. Learn more about the Way-Off Coursers on the team's page here: