There’s a rustling in the hedgerow, and a fluttering in the branches. In the Caribbean islands, we are starting to hear different voices and our gardens and landscapes are filled with bright new colors. Our “winter visitors” are arriving, and we welcome them every year.
Many may be surprised to learn that the Caribbean is a winter home for dozens of different migratory bird species. Now in its 26th year, International Migratory Bird Day (IMBD) highlights the amazing story of these birds and the importance of protecting them. While IMBD events happen across the Western Hemisphere throughout the year, most Caribbean events happen in the October, a particularly busy month for migratory birds in the West Indies.
On St. Martin, the flagship IMBD event is the Migratory Bird Festival. This festival will be held at University of St. Martin on Pond Island from 9am to noon on Sunday, October 16th. Activities will include presentations on a variety of topics, birdwatching, arts and crafts and other interactive activities celebrating our migratory birds and the local habitats that support and sustain them. The event is produced by the Les Fruits de Mer association, with sponsorship support from Yacht Club Port de Plaisance, Lagoonies Bistro and Bar, Hotel L’Esplanade, GEBE, Delta Petroleum, BZSE Attorneys at Law, Buccaneer Beach Bar, Aqua Mania Adventures and ACE.
Environment for the Americas (EFTA) coordinates IMBD across the Western Hemisphere. BirdsCaribbean is the regional organizer, coordinating all kinds of activities throughout the islands. Refuges, parks, museums, schools, botanical gardens and protected areas host events that reach about 100,000 people each year just in the Caribbean.
The 2016 theme is Spread Your Wings for Bird Conservation, in recognition of the Centennial of the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty, which makes it unlawful to pursue, hunt, take, capture, kill or sell migratory birds. The treaty does not discriminate between live or dead birds, and also grants full protection to any bird parts including feathers, eggs and nests. Over 800 species are currently on the list of protected birds.
This year IMBD partners seek to highlight how laws, treaties and protected areas help conserve our migratory birds, and what the average citizen can do to help. The beautiful 2016 IMBD poster shows eleven migratory bird species in flight, ten of which have benefited from conservation laws. One of these species is the Whimbrel, one of the widest-ranging shorebirds in the world that can fly for 4,000 kilometers non-stop. The poster was designed by Canada-based artist Lionel Worrell, who spent his early years in the Caribbean.
These delightful birds, that travel so far every year, represent a significant part of the biodiversity of the Americas. They are cause for celebration! BirdsCaribbean invites its friends and partners across the region to engage in activities that will not only help these birds continue to spread their wings across the ocean, for example by preserving their habitats. The IMBD events also aim to educate and inform Caribbean residents (young and not so young) on their remarkable lives.
How many migratory birds can you find on your island this winter? Let’s spread our wings and celebrate our remarkable feathered friends!