On Coloring Caribbean Birds and Attempting to Sketch Them

Are you artistic – or a budding artist? Do you love nature? Or do you just need some good therapy, in these stressful times?

If you check any one of these boxes, then BirdsCaribbean’s latest coloring book is for you. It was produced for the annual Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival (CEBF) and then, as the COVID-19 pandemic spread, promptly went online – “From the Nest.”

Endemic Birds of the West Indies Coloring Book.

There was quite a craze for “adult coloring books,” a couple of years back. Coloring was considered to be relaxing, therapeutic – a sort of harmless pastime that is surprisingly satisfying. It helps you to “switch off” a bit. Well, we certainly need that kind of off switch nowadays.  I remember, as a child, always coloring the illustrations of my favorite books (if they were in black and white). Below are two efforts of mine… from The Arabian Nights, which my father gave me for my seventh birthday.

But, what’s so special about the Endemic Birds of the West Indies Coloring Book? Well, it is online... Since the usual, much more sociable activities associated with the bird festival were not possible, due to COVID-19 restrictions. It has been unfolding daily for the last several weeks during the CEBF period, page by page. The book has tons of information about each bird, with maps, birdsong, puzzles, quizzes etc. Here, for example, is the lovely Scaly-naped Pigeon (Caribbean birds have such great names!) which I remember seeing in abundance in Grenada. The only part of the Caribbean where they don’t live is Jamaica and the Bahamas. You can download this one, and all the others, print and color away. It is guaranteed to keep restless children (and, perhaps, bored grownups) quiet for hours.


The illustrations are by Christine Elder, an Oregon-based artist and nature lover who is very well traveled and very knowledgeable about Caribbean birds. I remember her well from BirdsCaribbean’s International Conference in Kingston in 2015, when she was a great success at our children’s bird camp at Hope Zoo. What fun we had! Even “Bird Yoga” was on the agenda with Christine.

Now Ms. Elder is a perfect science educator. She is not intimidating, but in a rather gentle way imparts a vast amount of knowledge. I have attended a few of her bird sketching workshops online during the pandemic, and it has been a pleasant experience – a welcome break from some rather intense Zoom sessions, and an opportunity to learn. As a teenager I loved art and sketching (I seemed to have more time, then). Animals and people were always a challenge for me, trees, plants and landscapes much easier. So at Christine’s most recent workshop, I attempted a Mourning Dove.

WhatsApp Image 2020-07-11 at 3.29.23 PM
My sketch of a Mourning Dove.

Apart from the fact that he/she looked as if she had a stiff neck, it wasn’t a bad try, I suppose. I certainly learned a lot about doves and pigeons while struggling with my pencil and trying not to rub out too much.

So, there  you have it. You don’t have to be a bird expert to enjoy sketching, coloring, painting birds. But I warn you… You might develop a great love for your subject matter, as you go along. Next minute, you will be out buying a pair of binoculars and a fancy telescopic lens for your camera!

Birds are addictive and I won’t even pretend I want to get “clean”…

The Sad Flycatcher is endemic to Jamaica – that is, he lives here and nowhere else. How did he get his name? Well, you can find out if you take a look at the Coloring Book! By the way, his local name is Little Tom Fool. He is neither foolish nor sad, but a very charming little fellow.

4 thoughts on “On Coloring Caribbean Birds and Attempting to Sketch Them

  1. So I read this off line – at home – in the late late night hours (About 2?) and I wanted to jump thru the computer to see the images (they didn’t load when I was online) — so now 12 hours later \I am here to say hoo-rah! such a great heart-warming post!

    Now that I am here, I am very tardy regarding your cyber train trips – and that you’ve not taken one in Ecuador yet! That gave me a smile.. There’s a touristy type train op they call the ‘Devil’s Nose’ — a trip along part of the Andes…

    I loved the post about the humminbird and the moringa blossoms. I did not know that hummers liked those blossoms – another reason for people to plant more moringas! I have one growing in the apartment, and when it put on two seed pods, it dropped all leaves and appeared dead.. but the pods kept growing and growing and are now harvested and waiting for the seeds to be planted for more baby moringas… now that the seed pods are gone, it’s putting out leaves!

    Every so often there is a brief lapse in your posts, and then I worry.. WE have to have our Petchary – so stay well – and keep drawing and having fun!

    This is a great post and what a lovely idea! Now that the pics have loaded, I’ll enjoy it again at home.. There are too many peole here in this rest to suit my psyche and I’m about to scram, mask and all – though others are eating and talking and of course w/o masks!

    Sending you big strong energy!



    1. Dear Lisa: It’s so wonderful to hear from you! I will have to look up cyber train trips in Ecuador. I am sure there is one! I am so glad you enjoyed some of my posts, and the coloring book. Yes, I do lapse sometimes, but am trying to step it up again. Quite frankly, the COVID era had me in a state of semi-paralysis (if that’s the word) – mentally and spiritually. I couldn’t focus on anything for a while, let alone writing a blog post!
      Are you now living in an apartment? In the city? Moringas are odd trees – I am very fond of ours, although it is spindly and perhaps not very beautiful. The birds love it too, especially our White-wing Doves, who have been using it as a courting/mating location recently! It also attracts big black “carpenter bees” as I call them. The pods go on and on! You can make tea from the dried leaves – it’s not bad at all. And you can eat the seeds but not too many.
      Please stay safe and strong, too. We must keep in touch! Warmest, Emma

      Liked by 1 person

      1. hola from the museum.. they gave me permission to use the library, though the museo has been closed since march.. it’s been lovely – for the past three hours searching for plant identification info…

        si, for now i’m in the city – the deforestation was making me almost sick – hearing the saws at work, witnessing the trucks coming in after dark and leaving – while the guards at the dam/gate seemed to ‘not’ witness that illegal activity.. here in the city i’m ‘incubating’ and hope to return w/positive ways to make a difference. otherwise i’d be a chico mendez and don’t want that t happen!

        i see there’s tropical activity – not only onyour side but also in the pacific.. pages loaded to read when back at the apartment.

        moringa -whenever i have access to a healthy tree w/lots of fresh leaves, i take a double handful and shop them very finely (the leaves not the hands!) and equal amts of basil – and make a faux pesto.. also with quinoa added – since it’s available and cheap here.. sometimes broccoli is added, or carrots – whatever is on hand and is healthy…. that’s my ‘to go to’ when i need a bit of nutrition but don’t want to stop for a formal meal. we have ‘chochos’ here – an edible lupine/ legume from the blue-bonnet family. those are usually belnded in the mix as well…

        being at the museo i don’t want to take advantage of this gift so the internet session today is hurried.. so glad to visit with you, and i read all of your posts – just usually off line when back at the apartment.

        you earn every timeout you take!


      2. Dear Lisa! So lovely to hear from you again. I love libraries and will be writing about our National Library shortly (which is also closed). I have had so much to write about but am often “befogged” and almost paralyzed. I have never had this before and I blame it on You Know What. It’s terrible that you mention chain saws – I heard two running simultaneously for two long hours not far from our house today, and agonized. When it’s hurricane season people start massacring their trees, in case they fall down on their houses etc… and we are in the city! It must have been SO distressing. are they cutting trees for lumber? We are trying to reforest in the mountains here, with non-lumber trees that will not be taken to make lots of money out of it. It is frightening, and the threats against environmental defenders’ lives is just terrible too. Are we going to go on and on like this until there’s nothing left? On a happier note – your moringa recipe sounds amazing! I must try it – we buy (imported) quinoa here. THANK YOU for your encouraging messages, please take care in your incubation, and you will see a more free-flowing me soon!


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