From Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival

Saving a Species in Peril—A Holistic Approach to Conserving the Ridgway’s Hawk in the Dominican Republic

Soaring above the tree tops of Los Haitises National Park is the mighty Ridgway’s Hawk. Conflicts with humans and changes in its forest habitat have made it hard for this species to survive. Marta Curti tells us about the work of The Peregrine Fund to save this critically endangered raptor.

Ridgway's Hawks are critically endangered, found only in Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic. (Photo by the Peregrine Fund).
Ridgway’s Hawks are critically endangered and found only in Los Haitises National Park in the Dominican Republic. (Photo by The Peregrine Fund)

The Ridgway’s Hawk is endemic to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, but is now considered to be extinct in Haiti. The last remaining population of this species is in a small national park, Los Haitises, in the Dominican Republic (DR). There are only an estimated 350-450 individuals left in the wild.

I have been working as a biologist for The Peregrine Fund for the past 17 years.  I have been lucky enough to have been a part of several of their projects helping to conserve birds of prey in many countries around the world. In 2011, I joined the team working in DR to help to save the Ridgway’s Hawk from extinction.

The Peregrine Fund’s Ridgway’s Hawk conservation project has been running since 2002 and has many facets. When I was asked to share a short article about our project on the BirdsCaribbean blog, I spent a long time thinking what to write about. I could focus on the advances we have made to prevent botfly (Philornis pici) infestations in nestling Ridgway’s Hawks – an issue that, if left untreated, could cause over 70% mortality in young hawks.

Or I could discuss the successes of our Assisted Dispersal Program: bringing young hawks from Los Haitises National Park and releasing them in Ojos Indígenas Reserve in Punta Cana in an effort to create additional populations of the hawk in other protected areas on the island. Assisted Dispersal has resulted in the formation of 15 breeding pairs to date and 22 wild fledged young!

Nestling Ridgway's Hawks hatched in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic, thanks to The Peregrine Fund's Assisted Dispersal Program. (Photo by The Peregrine Fund)
Ridgway’s Hawks hatched in Punta Cana, Dominican Republic thanks to The Peregrine Fund’s Assisted Dispersal Program. (Photo by The Peregrine Fund)

Another aspect of the project I could mention is our collaboration with Fundación Grupo PUNTACANA and the Disney Conservation Fund to retrofit dangerous power lines preventing electrocutions of not only Ridgway’s Hawks, but other species of birds as well. A whole other blog post could focus on our program to provide free chicken coops to individuals in small communities, an effort to help avoid conflicts between humans and hawks that sometimes prey on young poultry.

Instead, today I would like to tell you about our community development and our environmental education programs. One important aspect of The Peregrine Fund’s work, is to improve the lives of people in areas where we are conserving birds of prey, whether through training, educational activities, or employment opportunities.

In the communities surrounding LHNP we are working with 17 local technicians that we have trained and hired. Some are in their 40s and 50s and have been with the project since its inception. Others are in their early twenties and are just beginning their careers. In small towns around LHNP, there are limited job opportunities and our project is able to provide economic benefits, employment and valuable training in skills such as tree climbing, data collection, bird banding, nest searching, as well as computer data entry and leadership skills.

A completed painting of a Ridgway's Hawk, done by one of the local school children. (Photo by The Peregrine Fund)
A completed painting of a Ridgway’s Hawk, done by one of the local schoolchildren. (Photo by The Peregrine Fund)

We began our environmental education program in Punta Cana in 2013, after three of our released Ridgway’s Hawks were shot in a nearby community. Since then, we have expanded our efforts and now work with over 15 communities and have reached over 7,000 individuals in a wide radius around the release site through door-to-door visits, educational presentations, school activities and teacher training workshops. One of the most fun and successful activities that we do every year (as part of our Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival) is the celebration of Ridgway’s Hawk Day, May 25th.

Thanks to a generous donation from BirdsCaribbean, this year we celebrated Ridgway’s Hawk Day with three separate activities around the country! The first, we held with two of our local partners: the National Zoo (ZOODOM) and Fundación Propagas. Schoolchildren from Santo Domingo were treated to a close-up view of a live Ridgway’s Hawk at the zoo, and also participated in an art project, receiving a raptor inspired mask at the end of their visit.

The second and third Ridgway’s Hawk Day activities took place in Punta Cana, where, with the help of Fundación Grupo PUNTACANA – another important local partner, we hosted two celebrations on June 1st and 2nd. Over 80 children visited our Ridgway’s Hawk release site in Punta Cana and saw young hawks up close, learning about the release process and the importance of protecting wildlife. Participants also learned how to use binoculars on a nature walk while practicing birding in forests and lagoons. The children also created beautiful art, painting and coloring on recycled wood – which focused on Ridgway’s Hawks, nature, and other wildlife observed during their visit. Select pieces will be displayed at an event in a local art museum early next year.

Participants are beginning to paint images of Ridgway's Hawks and other wildlife and nature scenes from the day. (Photo by The Peregrine Fund)
Participants are beginning to paint images of Ridgway’s Hawks and other wildlife and nature scenes from the day. (Photo by The Peregrine Fund)

To end the day, we headed down to a nearby beach where the kids played games in the sand, learning about the importance of a balanced ecosystem for creatures both on land and in the sea. After a picnic lunch under the shade of nearby trees, students clapped hands and swayed to the rhythm of drums during an interactive dance performance by one of our volunteers, in a full Ridgway’s Hawk costume!

We have already begun to see the positive effects of our education efforts in communities, especially in the attitudes of individual people. Most notably, in the community where our three Ridgway’s Hawks were killed a number of years ago, we now have a nesting pair of hawks who just fledged two perfectly healthy young! The entire community knows of the presence of the hawks and is now actively supporting their protection!

Though we still have a long way to go to ensure the conservation of the species, we continue to be encouraged by the changes we see taking place, making great strides each year and we look forward to the day that the Ridgway’s Hawk is no longer an endangered species.

A "Ridgway's Hawk" comes to visit.  (photo by The Peregrine Fund)
A “Ridgway’s Hawk” comes to visit.  (photo by The Peregrine Fund)

Marta Curti works as a biologist with The Peregrine Fund, a non-profit organization whose mission is to conserve birds of prey worldwide.

Thousands Enjoy Unique Bird Experiences Throughout the Caribbean

A birding trip to Jobos Bay Reserve in Puerto Rico.
A birding trip to Jobos Bay Reserve in Puerto Rico.
Thousands of people throughout the region had fun experiences with birds and nature over the past month during the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival. Dozens of festival events took place on different islands to celebrate the birds that live only here.

Activities were held for pre-school and primary students to adults and families. Bird talks were held on many islands to help people understand the unique birds that live only on specific islands or only in the region. Guided bird walks brought people of all ages out into nature to see these amazing birds firsthand. For many, it was their first chance to get an up-close view of birds through binoculars or a scope.

Games make it fun to learn about birds in Puerto Rico. (Photo by Eliezer Nieves)
Games make it fun to learn about birds in Puerto Rico. (Photo by Eliezer Nieves)
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Other activities were as diverse as the region itself. In the Dominican Republic, The Peregrine Fund hosted Ridgway’s Hawk Day to celebrate the endangered Ridgway’s Hawk, that lives only on Hispaniola. In Trinidad, bird education was brought to the streets with bird education stand at a local market hosted by the Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalist Club. In Puerto Rico, a special training workshop at the Centro Educativo del Corredor del Yaguazo gave teachers learning tools about birds to use in classes year-round. On St. Martin, festival attendees planted coconut trees with Environmental Protection in the Caribbean and painted bird feeders with Les Fruits de Mer.

Students go birding in Dominica. (Photo by Stephen Durand)
Students go birding in Dominica. (Photo by Stephen Durand)
Other groups that held events this year in Puerto Rico included Jobos Bay National Estuarine Research Reserve, Programa del Estuario de la Bahia de San Juan, Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña Inc., Centro Ambiental Santa Ana, Sociedad de Historia Natural de Puerto Rico, Proyecto: Reverdece Tu Comunidad – University of Puerto Rico Ponce Campus, and Universitarios Pro-Ambiente y Biodiversidad (UPABi) UPR-Ponce. In Dominica, the Forestry, Wildlife and Parks Division held events, as did Grupo Acción Ecológica in the Dominican Republic. Environmental Awareness Group hosted events in Antigua and Barbuda. Caribbean neighbors Fundación Científica Ara Macao in Venezuela and the Bermuda Audobon Society also hosted activities.

The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival is one of the Caribbean’s only regional events about birds and nature. It is organized by BirdsCaribbean each spring, and dozens of non-profits, schools, parks and other organizations develop events in their communities.

On St. Martin, festival attendees painted bird feeders to bring home. (Photo by Tim Chin)
On St. Martin, festival attendees painted bird feeders to bring home. (Photo by Tim Chin)
Endemic birds—those that live only on one island or within a small range—are at special risk of extinction. The Caribbean is home to many endemic species, and many are already in danger.

For more information about the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival, visit birdscaribbean.org or find BirdsCaribbean on Facebook.

Global Big Day is 13 May 2017

The West Indian Woodpecker, endemic to the Bahamas, Cuba and the Cayman Islands, is one of the 172 Caribbean endemics we hope will be counted on Global Big Day. (Photo by Bill Hebner)
The West Indian Woodpecker, endemic to the Bahamas, Cuba and the Cayman Islands, is one of the 172 Caribbean endemics we hope will be counted on Global Big Day. (Photo by Bill Hebner)

How many birds can a world of birders find in one day? Hopefully, you will join us to find out on May 13th — Global Big Day. This is the single biggest day for eBird and we’re inviting everyone to spend some time counting and enjoying Caribbean birds to help support global conservation efforts (and to have some fun in the process). Last year was a huge success that broke records around the world and across the Caribbean. The question is: Can we do it again?

More than one hundred Caribbean birders participated in last year’s Global Big Day, setting a new Global Big Day record for the Caribbean itself- 428 species! Thank you for making this possible. Your contributions to the past two Global Big Days have set back-to-back world records for the most bird species seen in a single day. Last year’s Global Big Day featured more than 60% of the world’s bird species in a single day (6,299!), with sightings coming in from more than 17,500 eBirders spread across 154 countries. 

Want to be a part of the fun this year? If you need an excuse to go enjoy birds on a lovely weekend day in May, we’ve got you covered. The West Indies, with it’s 175 endemic bird species, along with it’s near endemics and endemic subspecies, will be key in gathering a snapshot of bird distribution around the globe. 

If you’re looking to get started preparing for this year’s Global Big Day, here are four quick ways to have the most fun:

  1. “Scout” your birding spots for May 13. Finding where the birds are ahead of time makes the big day birding more fun, and also gives you more chances to be out enjoying birds. Perfect. Learn how to use eBird to find birds. 
  2. Hopefully, a few migrants, like this Ovenbird, are still lingering in the islands and will be included in some checklists! (photo by Bill Hebner)
    Hopefully, a few migrants, like this Ovenbird, are still lingering in the islands and will be included in some checklists! (photo by Bill Hebner)

    Use eBird Mobile. This free data-entry app makes it so you don’t have to enter your sightings at the end of the day, and tools like Quick Entry mean you have less time with your face in a notebook. Get eBird Mobile here.

  3. Get a friend involved. Perhaps this is a good birding buddy, or someone who has never been birding before. Make it a friendly competition, or join forces as a Global Big Day team, and put your marker on the global participation map. Share on social media using #eBird_GBD. Check out the Facebook event.
  4. Participating in Global Big Day is a great way to celebrate the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival, ongoing now! Make this a part of your celebration and organize a birding outing with family, friends or your community.

No matter what you do—have a great time, enjoy the birds around you, and let us know what you find! We’re excited to see what we can achieve together on Global Big Day.

Training participants practicing their bird identification on Burnt Hill Road in Cockpit Country. Photo by Lisa Sorenson.
Identifying and counting birds in Cockpit Country, Jamaica. (Photo by Lisa Sorenson)

And don’t forget to enter your Caribbean bird counts into eBird Caribbean – our own portal. All the data goes to the same place but we have some of our own protocols (Step 2 of data submission), for example, counts conducted at wetlands, ponds, mud flats and beaches can be entered as Caribbean Waterbird Census counts.

Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival Begins April 22nd

The Antillean Crested Hummingbird is a regional endemic. It is a common resident throughout the Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Photo by Sipke Stapert.
The Antillean Crested Hummingbird is a regional endemic. It is a common resident throughout the Lesser Antilles, Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico. Photo by Sipke Stapert.

It’s that time of year again! The Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival (CEBF) begins on Earth Day, April 22nd. This regional celebration highlights the birds that are endemic—the ones that live only in the Caribbean. A wide variety of events will take place across the region through May 22nd, International Biodiversity Day. This annual celebration is organized by BirdsCaribbean, and events are hosted by groups on many islands.

This year’s theme is Our Endemic Birds—Sharing “Stopover Sites.” While the festivals will celebrate the birds that live here and nowhere else in the world, they will also highlight habitat. Our endemic birds share their habitat with migratory birds that are here for only part of the year. Does sharing habitat mean more competition for food and shelter? How can we protect, conserve or even restore these shared habitats? What native plants and trees are beneficial? Which species are especially vulnerable?

The Great Lizard Cuckoo is a regional endemic bird. It is found on the islands of the Bahamas and Cuba. Photo by Carrol Henderson.
The Great Lizard Cuckoo is a regional endemic bird. It is found on the islands of the Bahamas and Cuba. Photo by Carrol Henderson.

The CEBF is a month-long event that Caribbean citizens of all ages enjoy – whether they are senior citizens in Havana, conservationists in Bermuda or schoolchildren in Grenada. And since we are in the Caribbean, our overseas visitors always get involved, too. In 2016, dozens of events celebrating endemic birds took place, providing opportunities for learning and enjoyment for thousands.

Springtime in the Caribbean is always marked by the activities of the birds. As the winter visitors get ready to leave, many of our local birds are already busy building nests and raising families. Hills, valleys, wetlands, fields and gardens are alive with the urgent calls of fledglings, making it the perfect time to enjoy and appreciate our endemic birds. Find out what is happening in your area, or consider hosting an endemic bird event yourself. Visit birdscaribbean.org or find BirdsCaribbean on Facebook for more information about the festival and updates throughout the month.

Islanders of All Ages Celebrate Caribbean Endemic Birds

A child releases a banded bird at Belmont Estates in Grenada. Adults and children learned about how birds are captured and banded for research, as well as how to use binoculars and identify birds in birding walks. (Photo courtesy of Belmont Estates).
A child releases a banded bird at Belmont Estates in Grenada. Adults and children learned about how birds are captured and banded for research, as well as how to use binoculars and identify birds in birding walks. (Photo by Dwain Thomas).

In Puerto Rico’s Cabo Rojo National Wildlife Refuge, members of the public went on a morning birding session, followed by a talk on endemic birds, in particular the “Reinita” – the Adelaide’s Warbler, known for its delightful song. On Grenada’s Belmont Estate, fifth-graders excitedly held bird bags, learned about mist netting and banding, and enjoyed releasing the birds. At the University of Havana’s School of Biology students organized knowledge piñatas, endemic bird bingo and other games and exhibits. And in Bermuda, besides the annual bluebird nestbox competition, members of the Bermuda Audubon Society sailed to Nonsuch Island in search of the National Bird, the endemic Bermuda Petrel, known locally as the “Cahow.”

What was all the fun and activity about? Well, one major clue in all of the above is the word “endemic.” The annual Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival (CEBF), coordinated by BirdsCaribbean and its energetic partners across the region, begins on Earth Day (April 22) and ends on International Biodiversity Day (May 22). The festival celebrates the

A child shares what he can do to help birds in an art activity in Puerto Rico (Photo courtesy of Centro Ambiental Santa Ana/ Sociedad de Historia Natural de Puerto Rico).
A child shares what he can do to help birds in an art activity in Puerto Rico (Photo courtesy of Centro Ambiental Santa Ana/ Sociedad de Historia Natural de Puerto Rico).

exceptionally high endemism in the region—173 species of birds call the Caribbean home, that is, they are found nowhere else in the world. Many of these species live only on a single island, and many are endangered or threatened. These birds are the most unique examples of the Caribbean’s natural heritage, and they often occupy specialized niches in the ecology of the islands where they live.

This year, dozens of events involved the active participation of thousands of islanders, young and old. The overall theme was “Spread Your Wings for Bird Conservation” which raised awareness about the different laws and programs that protect our unique birds and how everyone can participate in activities that help safeguard their long-term survival.

Grandparents (a group called “Renacer”) taking part in a bird knowledge game organized by students in the Biology Department at the University of Havana, Cuba. (Photo courtesy of the University of Havana).
Grandparents (a group called “Renacer”) taking part in a bird knowledge game organized by students in the Biology Department at the University of Havana, Cuba. (Photo courtesy of the University of Havana).

For the organizers of CEBF celebrations across the region, it is important to reach out to different groups. Birds – and in particular the “special” endemics that are unique to each island – have widespread appeal, touching hearts and minds in different ways. Each year, CEBF partners such as

Grupo Acción Ecológica in the Dominican Republic, the Natural History Society of Puerto Rico and Jamaica’s Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM) offer new perspectives on endemic birds for visitors from overseas as well as students of all ages, educators, local families and youth groups such as Boy Scouts. Members of a group of grandparents (“Renacer”) were among those visiting the University of Havana exhibition. Many events were advertised via social media as well as traditional media.

Brahim Diop, Forestry Dept. Jamaica, hands out prizes to student winners of the Bird Art Competition organized by C-CAM (Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation) in partnership with NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency), the Forestry Department, and the Institute of Jamaica.
Brahim Diop, Forestry Dept. Jamaica, hands out prizes to student winners of the Bird Art Competition organized by C-CAM (Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation) in partnership with NEPA (National Environment and Planning Agency), the Forestry Department, and the Institute of Jamaica.

In Jamaica, C-CAM’s new Portland Bight Discovery Centre, in the Salt River wetland area, was the setting for an exciting day of activities for local high school students and teachers. Prizes (including Ann Haynes Sutton’s “Birds of Jamaica” field guide) were awarded in four categories for a student art exhibition with some stunning entries. An exploration of the surrounding mangroves and bird hide, including binocular practice, was literally an “eye-opener” for the students. Earlier, the National Environment & Planning Agency (NEPA) partnered with a local non-profit organization in deep rural Trelawny for the Spring Garden Bird Festival, where the very young Team Hummingbird were champion birdwatchers.

Students from the Mary Hutchinson Primary School and the Stephanie Primary School having fun with binoculars during a bird-watching session on Union Island with Sustainable Grenadines, Inc. (Photo by Orisha Joseph)
Students from the Mary Hutchinson Primary School and the Stephanie Primary School having fun with binoculars during a bird-watching session on Union Island with Sustainable Grenadines, Inc. (Photo by Orisha Joseph)

Over in the eastern Caribbean, the trans-boundary non-governmental organization Sustainable Grenadines Inc (SusGren) took to the seas and led a series of bird-watching trips with its Junior Rangers and graduate BirdSleuth teachers. Their island excursions included an early morning trip at the invitation of the exclusive Palm Island Beach Resort (breakfast included); and extensive seabird and shorebird viewing and counting via boat trips and on foot, around Union Island and its surrounding islets and rocks.

The CEBF would be nothing without partnerships, and new ones are being forged every year on every island. Non-governmental organizations such as “SOPI” (Sociedad Ornitológica Puertorriqueña), in Puerto Rico; private sector sponsors such as the Bermuda Electricity Company; government agencies such as Jamaica’s Forestry Department; and academic institutions such as the Cuban Zoological Society and the Institute of Jamaica’s Natural History Museum – all bring extra value to the activities by lending additional local expertise, materials and funds.

On the trail looking for birds with home-made binoculars in Puerto Rico. (Photo courtesy of Centro Ambiental Santa Ana/ Sociedad de Historia Natural de Puerto Rico)
On the trail looking for birds with home-made binoculars in Puerto Rico. (Photo courtesy of Centro Ambiental Santa Ana/ Sociedad de Historia Natural de Puerto Rico)

CEBF 2016 was, once again, an expression of joy and appreciation, as well as a learning experience for many. As the leader of a Boy Scouts group in Caguas, Puerto Rico put it: “What I was most pleased with were the activities for my students, teachers and the families. My boys thoroughly enjoyed it all.”

For more photographs and reports on CEBF activities, visit the Caribbean Bird Festivals Facebook page and our BirdsCaribbean Flicker page, CEBF 2016 album.

BirdsCaribbean thanks all of our partners for their leadership and hard work and the US Forest Service, US Fish and Wildlife Service, Environment for the Americas and Optics for the Tropics for materials and support.

Free Webinar: Spread Your Wings for Bird Conservation

Join us for a free webinar on May 5th!
Join us for a free webinar on May 5th!

Please join us for another exciting webinar, which focuses on the issue of illegal trafficking of birds, on Thursday, May 5th, 1 to 2 p.m. (EDT). In this webinar, learn from our experts about Caribbean endemic birds, why they are important, what threatens them (focusing especially on the issue of illegal trade), the international and local laws that help protect birds, and what you can do to help.

This webinar is part of our ongoing Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival 2016 activities. The theme for this year’s festival is, “Spread Your Wings for Bird Conservation.” The webinar will be presented by Mr. Scott Johnson, Science Officer at the Bahamas National Trust and Dr. Leo Douglas (BirdsCaribbean).  Our special guest speaker is Ms. Alessandra Vanzella (Program Officer at the United Nations Environment Program,  Caribbean Environment Program, Kingston, JA).

Space is limited so register early!  Here is the link to register:

http://bit.ly/1rxjzlA

Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival Highlights Laws that Protect Birds

Hispaniolan Parakeets, native to Hispaniola, are illegally captured and sold for pets or smuggled out of the country for the pet trade.
Hispaniolan Parakeets, native to Hispaniola, are illegally captured and sold for pets or smuggled out of the country for the pet trade.

“Spread Your Wings for Bird Conservation” is the theme for this year’s celebration of the Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival. At dozens of events throughout the region, participants of all ages will learn about the different laws and programs that protect our unique birds and how everyone can participate in activities that help safeguard their long-term survival.

The festival, now in its 15th year, is led by BirdsCaribbean, the largest organization devoted to wildlife conservation in the Caribbean. The month-long festival includes Caribbean-wide activities beginning today – Earth Day (April 22), through to International Biodiversity Day (May 22), in more than twenty countries. The event celebrates the 173 bird species that are found only in the Caribbean, known as endemics. The highly successful program attracts over 80,000 participants and volunteers each year.

Thanks to environmental laws, programs, and treaties set up to protect wild birds, there is a very good chance that our children and grandchildren will get to enjoy the same birds in their backyards, forests and wetlands that we do,” said Dr. Lisa Sorenson, Executive Director of BirdsCaribbean. “This has not always been the case and the result can be tragic.” A notable example is the extinction of the Cuban Macaw in the late 1800s due to hunting and capture for the pet trade.

Fortunately, far-sighted leaders came together to formulate international conventions and treaties that protect wildlife. For example, CITES – the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora – was established in the 1960s to ensure that species threatened with extinction are not traded internationally. Another global agreement, the Convention on Biological Diversity, was set up in 1988 to increase biodiversity conservation.

Here in the Caribbean most countries have signed onto these and other conventions and treaties but it is up to each individual country to take action to protect their wildlife, for example, through Wild Bird Protection Acts and setting up parks and protected areas. Many have done so with great success but challenges remain. Illegal hunting and capture, sale and trade of wild birds is still a significant problem in some countries. Endemic parrots and parakeets are particularly vulnerable, as are migratory and resident or endemic songbirds such as bullfinches, orioles, buntings and warblers.

Cuban Parrots, native to the Bahamas, Cuba and the Cayman Islands are illegally captured and sold as pets or smuggled out of the country for the pet trade.
Cuban Parrots, native to the Bahamas, Cuba and the Cayman Islands are illegally captured and sold as pets or smuggled out of the country for the pet trade.

Keeping wild birds as pets in cages is engrained in some Caribbean cultures,” commented Leo Douglas, President of BirdsCaribbean. “Through education campaigns carried out as part of our festival, we want to make sure people know that these activities are illegal and could cause a species to decline and eventually become extinct. It’s up to all of us to be good stewards of our environment so that our invaluable natural heritage is preserved for all Caribbean people to enjoy.”

The goal of the month-long Festival over its 15-year history has always been to increase public awareness of the region’s exceptionally rich and threatened bird life, using the Caribbean’s celebrated endemic birds as flagships of conservation. Festival activities include a diverse array of public events including bird-watching excursions, lectures, seminars, photographic exhibitions, school-based art and costume competitions, church services, media campaigns, and theatrical productions all in recognition of the region’s rich bird life, natural heritage, and interconnectedness of regional habitats to global events.

This year, festival participants will learn about actions that they can take to help conserve birds. Never buying wild-caught birds and reporting the capture and sale of wild birds to the authorities is very important. Educating your fellow citizens and asking your government to prioritize bird and habitat conservation is another great way to contribute to the cause—our birds are worth much more alive in nature than in a cage in another country! Finally, planting native trees for birds and supporting local environmental groups that work to conserve nature can provide a big boost to birds.

To view reports and photos of past Caribbean Endemic Bird Festivals, for downloadable Festival resources, and for updates on ongoing and planned activities in your area, visit the Celebrate Birds page at www.birdscaribbean.org

Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival Branches Out Into Habitat Restoration

Visitors learn about birds with the help of bird study skins at the the Bahamas National Trust CEBF exhibit at the Mall at Marathon in Nassau, Bahamas.
Visitors learn about birds with the help of bird study skins at the the Bahamas National Trust CEBF exhibit at the Mall at Marathon in Nassau, Bahamas.
From the grand opening of an ornithological center in Puerto Rico to birding by boat at remote cays in the Grenadines, Caribbean birds were celebrated in more ways than ever during the past month. The 14th annual Caribbean Endemic Bird Festival (CEBF) included dozens of events on over 20 Caribbean islands. This unique festival focuses on the bird species that are endemic to—found only in—the Caribbean. Each year, events organized as a part of this festival reach more than 80,000 participants throughout the region.

This year, the theme of “Restore Habitat, Restore Birds” inspired new activities and direct action to restore habitat on many islands. In St. Martin, over 100 seedlings of the native, but endangered, lignum vitae tree were distributed as part of a heritage tree habitat restoration project. At many events, attendees learned about the special relationships between endemic birds and native plants and trees.

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Endemic Bird Exhibit in The Bahamas

How do you CEBF? In The Bahamas, they mounted a Caribbean Endemic Bird Exhibit in a local shopping mall to celebrate and share the five Bahamian endemic bird species, teach about bird conservation and showcase their current bird-related projects: Birdsleuth Caribbean Program, Audubon Bird Tourism Project, TNC Kirtland’s Warbler Project and Discovery Club. Spearheaded by the Bahamas National Trust, they had volunters from the Bird Club of New Providence, Royal Bank Canada, students from Queen College, College of BahamasNassau Christian Academy and CR Walker High Schools and the Proprietor and an employee from Ebiz, a local tech company.

The exhibit directly engaged 1200 people in just one day, and the Bahamas National Trust will be following up this week with those who wanted to learn more about these programs.

Endemic Animal Festival Branches Out, Attracting Record Crowd

The Endemic Animal Festival is brought to life by an all-volunteer team. (Photo by Marc Petrelluzzi)
The Endemic Animal Festival is brought to life by an all-volunteer team. (Photo by Marc Petrelluzzi)
The Les Fruits de Mer association’s Endemic Animal Festival—now in its second year—was bigger and better than ever, attracting over 250 residents and tourists. The event celebrates the animals found only on St. Martin or only in our region and features a guided nature walk, an Endemic Animal Discovery Station, and other family-friendly activities related to endemic wildlife.

“We were absolutely thrilled with the great turnout and how excited the attendees were,” said Les Fruits de Mer President Jenn Yerkes. “More than any other event we organize, the Endemic Animal Festival showcases the unique natural heritage of St. Martin, and it’s really a joy to share that with people.”

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