Ecological definition

Migratory birds are species where a substantial proportion of the global or a regional population makes regular cyclical movements beyond the breeding range, with predictable timing and destinations (Kirby et al. 2008).

CMS (Convention on Migratory Species) definition

Migratory birds are the entire population or any geographically separate part of the population of any species or lower taxon of wild birds, a significant proportion of whose members cyclically and predictably cross one or more national jurisdictional boundaries (Kirby et al. 2008).

Migratory Waterbirds are defined broadly as migratory birds ecologically dependent on wetlands.

For the purpose of the Partnership, migratory waterbirds include populations of shorebirds, Anatidae (ducks, geese and swans), cranes, and seabirds (for example Divers, Cormorants, Gulls, Shearwaters, and Auks) and several other groups, which cyclically and predictably cross one or more national jurisdictional boundary
(see Partnership Document, Appendix 2).

Large numbers of migratory waterbirds often congregate at staging sites (typically, few such sites) for refueling during their journeys, especially before crossing large ecological barriers. Consequently, the loss of staging wetlands may have critical impacts on successful journeys and survival of migratory waterbirds.

Spreadsheet of bird names and translations in partner languages.

Taxonomic groups of waterbirds migrating within the East Asian-Australasian Flyway

Taxonomic Group English Name
Gaviidae Divers/Loons
Podicipedidae Grebes
Phalacrocoracidae Cormorants
Procellariidae Shearwaters
Oceanitidae Storm Petrels
Pelecanidae Pelicans
Ardeidae Herons, Egrets and Bitterns
Ciconiidae Storks
Threskiornithidae Ibises and Spoonbills
Anatidae Swans, Geese and Ducks
Gruidae Cranes
Rallidae Rails, Gallinules and Coots
Heliornithidae Finfoots
Jacanidae Jacanas
Haematopodidae Oystercatchers
Recurvirostridae Stilts and Avocets
Glareolidae Pratincoles
Charadriidae Plovers
Scolopacidae Sandpipers
Laridae Gulls, Terns and Skimmers
Stercorariidae Skuas
Alcidae Auks


Kirby, J.S., Stattersfield, A.J., Butchart, S.H.M., Evans, M.I., Grimmett, R.F.A., Jones, V.R., O’Sullivan, J., Tucker, G.M. & Newton, I. 2008. Key conservation issues for migratory land- and waterbird species on the world’s major flyways. Bird Conservation International 18: S49-S73.