By Hana Namrouqa

AMMAN – Watching and studying birds is an unconventional hobby for teenagers, but for Hanan Abu Shanab, analysing birds’ behaviour and their origins is her pastime.

“Studying migratory and resident birds in Jordan, their route and challenges they face during migration has become an important and interesting topic to me, which I seek to know more about,” the 17-year-old student told The Jordan Times on Monday.

Under an environmental education programme implemented by the Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature (RSCN) to raise students’ awareness on migratory birds, Abu Shanab and nine other students became the society’s newest “young bird researchers”.

The youngsters carried out research on different types of birds, studied their behaviour and their adaptation to the surrounding environment; they also received training at the Azraq Wetland Reserve, a major stop for migratory birds in the Kingdom.

“I did a research paper about birds in Jordan and one of my recommendations was urging policy makers to integrate [the study of] migratory birds and the importance of protecting them in school curricula,” Abu Shanab said.

At a ceremony marking World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD), celebrated annually on May 14-15, the RSCN distributed certificates to the 10 young bird researchers.

Initiated in 2006, WMBD is an annual campaign backed by the UN and is devoted to celebrating migratory birds and promoting their conservation worldwide.

On the second weekend each May, people around the world take action and organise public events such as bird festivals, education programmes and bird-watching excursions to celebrate WMBD and to help raise awareness around a specific theme.

This year’s theme, “Land Use Changes from a Bird’s-Eye View”, highlights the negative effects human activities are having on migratory birds, their habitats and the planet’s natural environment.

The Rift Valley-Red Sea route is the world’s second most-used flyway, with more than 1.5 million birds crossing it during migration seasons in spring and autumn.

Migratory birds in the southern hemisphere use the route to return to Europe and the northern hemisphere in the spring. On the way, they stop over in places like the Jordan Valley to rest and drink water.

A total of 37 types of migratory soaring birds, which maintain flight by using rising air currents, travel on the Rift Valley-Dead Sea Flyway annually, according to the RSCN.

At least five of these are globally endangered, such as white and black storks, buzzards, eagles and vultures.

Mohammad Baddar, RSCN’s environmental education coordinator, said the students were acquainted with challenges threatening migratory birds, including illegal logging and urban expansion.

Absence of rain is also affecting migratory birds in Jordan, according to RSCN researchers, who reported a 20 per cent drop in the number of migratory birds stopping over in Jordan this year.