BirdsCaribbean has been coming up with a whole range of online activities and learning opportunities for young (and older) bird enthusiasts – or just for people of any age who want to know more about the remarkable and unique birds that call our region home. By the way, the regional non-governmental organization focuses on island birds – not the peripheral Caribbean countries that are part of mainland ecosystems such as Belize, Guyana and Suriname (although they have amazing birds, also). So, from Dutch-speaking Aruba in the south to the Bahamas in the north, BirdsCaribbean works with partners – local community-based organisations, government departments, and conservationists – right across our scattered islands.
The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival (CEBF) is in its 21st year. Endemics are species that live in one particular area (or island) only – and nowhere else in the world. Sadly, many are dwindling in numbers – for example, the lovely Black-billed Parrot. In fact, parrots are especially under pressure, due to determined hunters for the pet trade. Don’t buy a parrot (or any other bird) in a cage! It is illegal in Jamaica – our birds are protected by law.
But I digress – there is so much more to say about the threats to our birds. BirdsCaribbean is offering us insights into a new Caribbean endemic bird each day. A particular favorite of mine was featured recently – the second smallest bird in the world, the Vervain Hummingbird, which is endemic to Jamaica and Hispaniola. Then there is the Yellow-shouldered Grassquit, which I confess I have never seen, and which lives only in Jamaica. Each link will give you specially drawn pictures to download and color, information on the bird of the day, audio of its song, a Puzzle of the Day, an Activity of the Day, and some great videos to watch.
For children and adults, each page brings a beautifully collated overview of each bird, contributed by many BirdsCaribbean members and with illustrations by two incredibly gifted wildlife artists, Oregon-based Christine Elder and Venezuela-based Josmar Marquez (Christine also does online art workshops and Josmar has produced a number of beautiful sketching and origami videos, which you can see on BirdsCaribbean’s YouTube channel).
Now – what is a Zine? BirdsCaribbean also has a great competition which should bring out the “Creative” in us. It is open to residents of Caribbean islands, beginning with the seven to nine years age group and including adults (age sixteen up). Here is an explanation:
What is your favorite bird? You can start there. There are step-by-step instructions here. Contest guidelines are here. This can be a manual (that is, offline) project too – if connectivity is an issue. And did we mention there are terrific prizes!
If you have any questions about your zine, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
Here is the front cover of one “bird-zine” created by Aliya Hosein of Trinidad and Tobago:
So, let your creative juices flow. This is a great activity for bored children “on lockdown” (as so many of us in the Caribbean still are), for educators – and for grown-ups who may be on a pandemic “learning curve”! Let’s go!