About Us

The Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center is dedicated to understanding, conserving and championing the grand phenomenon of bird migration. Founded in 1991, we are located at the Smithsonian's National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.

We seek to clarify why migratory bird populations are declining before the situation becomes desperate. Our programs help raise awareness about migratory birds and the need to protect diverse habitats across the Western Hemisphere.

A Message from the Director

Pete Marra, head of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Welcome to the new website of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, your virtual gateway to the groundbreaking research conducted by our staff, post docs and students.

Our work broadly focuses on the ecology, evolution and conservation of migratory birds. Whether it's studying annual migratory movements, collecting long-term data on migratory birds from North to South America, working with bird-friendly coffee farmers in Nicaragua, or bridging classrooms across the Americas—we do it because we're passionate about science, conservation, education and, of course, birds!

The nature of our work could not be more timely. We're perched on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the passenger pigeon's extinction. A species that once blackened the skies across eastern North America, the last known passenger pigeon, Martha, died on Sept. 1, 1914. Since that day, the Eskimo Curlew, Carolina parakeet, Ivory-billed woodpecker, Bachman's warbler and over 10 species of Hawaiian birds have also gone extinct in the United States.

Twenty-five years ago, U.S. Geological Survey scientists Chan Robbins, John Sauer and Sam Droege, along with Migratory Bird Center founder Russ Greenberg, published a seminal paper that set off an environmental alarm. The paper revealed severe population declines of many bird species that migrate thousands of miles back and forth between temperate and tropical regions. Suddenly, people began paying attention to thrushes and warblers in addition to ducks and bobwhite quail. A new era in ornithological conservation began, inspiring the establishment of the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center, Partners in Flight and a waterfall of other initiatives committed to preventing avian extinctions.

Despite these efforts, many of our most beloved species like the Wood Thrush, Rusty Blackbird and Common Nighthawk continue to precipitously decline. The Red Knot, Kirtland's warbler and the whooping crane dance on the edge of extinction. Most alarming of all, we don't know why.

This is why we're here. SMBC is committed to bringing the best and most innovative science to solving this crisis and communicating our findings in creative ways to broad audiences. Effective solutions require a fundamental understanding of birds' biology. Think of us as natural history detectives searching for clues about birds and what influences their survival.

Why does it matter? That's easy—birds connect us to nature like no other animal. They are an everyday reminder that we are part of the natural world. As species decline or disappear, the integrity of Earth's tapestry, of which we are a part, becomes compromised. As the head of the Migratory Bird Center, I can't have that happen—not for my kids or yours.

So dive into our website and learn about the fascinating and vital work that goes on here. And know you can help—become a member of the Migratory Bird Center today and join the effort to conserve some of the greatest species on the planet.

Pete Marra, Ph.D.
Head, Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center

Contact Us

Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center
PO Box 37012 MRC 5503
Washington, DC 20013-7012

Email: smbc@si.edu

Phone: 202.633.4888