Birds of a Feather Flocked Together: Is the Scope and Scale of Trade in Songbirds Sustainable?

Updated on 07 March 2024


Geneva, 27 December 2023 — Around 60% of all birds are songbirds (of the order Passeriformes), which account for the highest overall number of traded species of any order of birds. Trade in songbirds takes place at all scales, both domestically and internationally, and across many songbird families. Millions of songbirds are taken from the wild annually for a range of purposes, as pets, as food, for their feathers and song competitions. However, exact numbers are hard to determine since trade is often inadequately or not reported. 

yellow and brown bird perched on a tree branch
Black-naped oriole (Oriolus chinensis) © / Adobe Stock

More than 60 experts, policymakers, and stakeholders from over 30 countries gathered for the hybrid Technical Workshop on Songbird Trade and Conservation Management organized by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from 11-14 December 2023 at the United Nations Convention Centre in Bangkok, Thailand to consider the scale and scope of international songbird trade and the management and conservation priorities of songbird taxa involved in such trade.

The workshop was convened in accordance with Decision 18.256 (Rev. CoP19) on Songbird trade and conservation management adopted at the 19th meeting of the Conference of the Parties (CoP19) in Panama City in 2022. It brought together members of the CITES Animals and Standing Committees, as well as representatives from range, exporting, transit and consumer States and relevant intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations with a common purpose: the conservation and sustainable management of songbirds affected by international trade.

Presentations on songbird trade were made by government representatives from each of the six CITES regions (Africa, Asia, Europe, North America, Central and South America and the Caribbean, and Oceania), as well as by representatives from non-governmental organizations. Key observations from the workshop include that trade in songbirds is very complex and involving hundreds of species. There are also regional differences and large knowledge gaps on the actual volume, trends, species concerned and the impacts of this trade on wild songbird populations.

In her opening remarks, CITES Secretary-General Ivonne Higuero stated that: “Thailand, with its rich biodiversity and deep cultural appreciation for nature, serves as a fitting backdrop for these discussions on the challenges and opportunities surrounding the trade in songbirds, whose melodious tunes and exquisite plumage, hold a special place in our collective consciousness. However, songbirds face increasing threats that demand our urgent attention and collaborative action. Together, we can help to ensure that the enchanting melodies of songbirds will ring out for generations to come.

All relevant documents from the workshop are currently available online. The findings and draft recommendations from the workshop will be submitted to the next meeting of the Animals Committee in July 2024 for its consideration.



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About CITES 

The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) was signed on 3 March 1973 and entered into force on 1 July 1975. With 184 Parties (183 countries + the European Union), it remains one of the world's most powerful tools for wildlife conservation through the regulation of international trade in over 40,900 species of wild animals and plants. CITES-listed species are used by people around the world in their daily lives for food, health care, furniture, housing, tourist souvenirs, cosmetics or fashion. CITES seeks to ensure that international trade in such species is sustainable, legal and traceable and contributes to both the livelihoods of the communities that live closest to them and to national economies for a healthy planet and the prosperity of the people in support of UN Sustainable Development Goals. 

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