The Arctic Migratory Birds Initiative (AMBI): protecting Arctic lifestyles and peoples through migratory bird conservation is a project designed to improve the status and secure the long-term sustainability of declining Arctic breeding migratory bird populations.

Arctic-breeding birds use as many as eight different flyways to move from Arctic breeding grounds to overwintering or stopover sites at lower latitudes.  Many bird populations are declining at an unprecedented rate for variety of reasons:

  • destruction of coastal wetlands for land reclamation and drainage,
  • habitat degradation,
  • trapping/poaching,
  • unsustainable harvesting and
  • climate change. 

AMBI Flyway maps




Migratory birds are an important indicator of ecosystem health.  In the Arctic, seabirds can indicate much about the health of the oceans, where the majority of marine life is out-of-sight. Shorebirds – despite the name – occur throughout Arctic habitats and are also an important indicator of change.  

Birds are harvested by many people on Arctic breeding grounds, along migratory routes, and on overwintering grounds. Seabirds, for example, are taken for their meat, eggs and down in all Arctic countries.  In Alaska, Canada, Greenland, and Russia more extensive harvest rights are given to indigenous people, in recognition that subsistence harvest of seabirds is essential to maintaining a traditional lifestyle. The annual take of seabirds is significant, ranging from about 4,000 in Norway to 260,000 in Canada. Traditional harvest of seabird eggs is known to be in the tens of thousands in Canada and unknown quantities in other countries.

Shorebirds and seabirds contribute to economic diversification in Arctic communities through small scale ecotourism activities which are low impact, independent of development cycles, and more compatible with land-based pursuits. For example, each May, the Copper River Delta Shorebird Festival brings visitors and economic stimulation to the community of Homer, Alaska.


AMBI summary 

Purple sandpiper. Photo: Morten EkkerThe project will have three steps: 

  1. During the first step, species or groups of species or habitats will be prioritized based on the urgency of the conservation need or the benefits to multiple species.
  2. During the second step, the state of knowledge for priority species or habitats will be assessed. The following questions will be posed:
    1. Do we know the most important habitats and locations for each part of the species’ annual cycle?
    2. Do we understand the main cause(s) of decline for this species or the conditions necessary to maintain or recover populations?
    3. Can we identify the conservation actions that need to be undertaken to stabilize or reverse declines, or to maintain current population levels?
  3. During the third step, direct actions to improve the conservation status of priority species will beIdentified actions could be concrete conservation measures or they could be studies to gather information crucial to identify appropriate measures. Where the state of knowledge is sufficient, the project will identify necessary conservation actions (for example; habitat securement, improved harvest regulations, sustainable development) and broker agreements to implement actions.   Where the state of knowledge for a priority species is poor, conservation action and work to obtain necessary information will proceed simultaneously, where possible.

 This project will require enhanced cooperation among Arctic countries, as well as cooperation between Arctic countries and countries outside the Arctic, that host Arctic birds during the non-breeding season.  

The initiative’s focus is on Arctic seabirds and shorebirds and habitats. However, species or habitats from other bird groups may also be identified as priorities.


Summary of project steps.  Step 1 will prioritize species and habitats based on conservation risk and benefits to multiple species; Step 2 will assess the status of knowledge; Step 3 will result in direct actions where the state of knowledge is high, and fill important gaps in knowledge where the state of knowledge is poor. Implementation of effective management actions for priority species and habitats is the goal.


AMBI timeline* 

*subject to change 


AMBI Flyway implementation timeline 


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