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,
  • illegal killing,
  • unsustainable harvesting and
  • climate change. 


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 


Priority species in the 2015-2019 work plan

Bar-tailed Godwit: USFWS/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0
Bar-tailed godwit 
Dunlin: shellgame/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0
Great knot: ken/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0
Great knot
Red knot: Morten Ekker
Red knot
Spoon-billed sandpiper: feathercollector/
Spoon-billed sandpiper
Lesser White-fronted goose: Morten Ekker
Lesser white-fronted goose

Curlew sandpiper
Semipalmated sandpiper: Lisa Pirie/Environment Canada
Semipalmated sandpiper
Black tailed Godwit: Bart van Dorp/Flickr Creative Commons 2.0
Black-tailed godwit 
Snowy owl: Berndt Vorwald/
Snowy owl
Ivory gull: Todd Boland/
Ivory gull
Thick-billed Murre: Morten Ekker
Thick-billed murre
Steller's eider: Morten Ekker
Steller's eider
Common eider: Micha Klootwijk/
Common eider
Long-tailed duck: Morten Ekker
Long-tailed duck


AMBI timeline* 

*subject to change 


AMBI Flyway implementation timeline 



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