1st Bird Festival in Chiriqui, Panama

May 20th, 2017
David, Chiriquí, Chiriquí Province, Panama

More than 20 groups and organizations were involved in successfully creating and conducting the first bird festival in Chiriquí, Panama. The main goal of this festival was clear; to provide a safe space for education and raising awareness in the community about bird conservation and environmental sustainability.

The festival was held in May at the beautiful Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra park in the city of David, Chiriquí. Participants of all age groups enjoyed the educational BirdSleuth International curriculum activities. During the festival, a photography contest and a photography exhibit highlighted Panama’s beautiful biodiversity. The artistic section of the festival also had painting activities, musical performances, dances and even a puppet show, all done in honor of birds!

The diverse audience included scientists, government officials, community organizations, school groups, families and additional members of the general public. Katherine Araúz-Ponce, one of the organizers of the main event, said:

“This event celebrated resident and migratory birds. It promoted participation and informed participants about conservation actions they can take for their local biodiversity. The public involvement in educational activities about bird conservation and environmental awareness, as well as the increase of citizen science participation in Panama, were priorities for the festival.”

During the festival, El Nido de Las Artes de Panamá and Adopta Panama Rainforest cooperated on art activities. The projects included painting and education about the resident and migratory birds of Panama. Conexión Lila also taught participants that through painting, they could use their art to inform the community about nature. Art supplies were made available through kind donations from Environment for the Americas, in commemoration of International Migratory Birds Day. Los Naturalistas and Panama Bird & Wildlife Photos shared wild bird facts through photographs. ICADES (Instituto de Ciencias Ambientales y Desarrollo Sostenible) and VIP (Vicerrectoría de Investigación y Posgrado) from the Universidad Autónoma de Chiriquí (UNACHI) presented a fantastic exhibit of photographs displaying the life cycle of the Rufous-tailed Hummingbird. These activities educated the public on how they could continue the cycle of conservation.

The festival also held fun activities and presentations discussing ways to create and improve local habitats for birds while improving the environmental quality of the community. Reforestando Centroamérica en Chiriquí, Oxi Plantas PTY, and Cochea Garden shared the significance of greening with native species, especially fruit-bearing plants, that help various bird species. Yo Reciclo con el Tapete de Giselle Morhaim and RHM Bags also highlighted the seriousness of the three “Rs” (Reduce, Reuse, Recycle) as a way to contribute to the preservation of the local environment.

Student group organizations like Detectives de Aves del Centro Básico San Mateo and the Asociación de Muchachas Guías de David assisted in and enjoyed the liveliness of the festival. Educators who recently had been trained on the BirdSleuth International curriculum took part in leading some of the more playful activities. Some of these fun pastimes were Migration Obstacles, Myth or Truth, and creating nest boxes using biodegradable materials. The finished nest boxes were placed around the park in order to help birds find safe and suitable homes.

In the photography contest, the entries that best captured Panama’s natural beauty were shown and the winners were awarded in front of all festival attendees. Certificates of gratitude were also handed out during the festival to sponsors, private companies, organizers, volunteers, and educators.

On stage, “The Bird Without Feathers” puppet show was presented:

“A small brown beaked bird with blue-green feathers lived in the farthest part of the forest with his family. The bird was just like other birds with one exception, he did not have one feather on his head. He was totally bald. But his mother did not care about his differences and loved him just as much as she loved her other sons.

 His mom helped him learn how to run, how to jump, how to fly, and especially how to sing. But most importantly, his mother taught him to be happy without feeling different than other birds. One day the bird’s mom exclaimed, “Luis, you are now old enough to go to school and make friends” Luis felt frightened at the thought of being rejected by his classmates because of his head. He murmured, “But Mom at school the other birds will make fun of me…”

(Photo © ICADES)
 Luis’s mom came near her son and with tenderness in her voice explained, “Luis, you are only a little different than everyone else, but that doesn’t make you inferior to the rest of your friends. They will accept you just like you are. Giving Luis the motivation he needed, he flew in the direction of his school. Once he arrived, he noticed his school was located in a hill of fragrant flowers with trees full of fruit to pick from, and a beautiful river to drink water from. Luis was so happy he placed himself on top of a branch where other birds were talking amongst themselves. Once the birds noticed Luis they began to tease him about his bald head. Luis felt so sad he could not stop the tears from spilling from his eyes.

 When it was time for recess, all the birds began to play soccer, leaving Luis out of the group. After a few minutes, Luis felt the sun burn his head and rushed to the river to cool his head. In the back, he heard the birds begin to laugh at him.

 A bird exclaimed, “Look at his head! It shines like the sun! Hahaha.”

 Luis left the group and sat down under the tree for shade, hoping he could leave school and never go back.

 While the others continued to make fun of him, a bird named Rosita with pink and white feathers observed Luis. She got closer and asked, “Would you like to be my friend?” Luis was so happy. “Yes!” he exclaimed with a big smile.

 The days passed and all the other birds were still making fun of Luis. Rosita had enough! She made the decision to pluck all the feathers off her head. The next day, Rosita arrived at school early without one feather on her head. The other birds were stunned to see Rosita without feathers on her head, but stayed quiet as she explained how cruel they were being to Luis. Later, the others began pulling the feathers from their heads just like Rosita had decided to do.

Luis had not arrived at school yet as he was trying to convince his mother to let him stay home. He pleaded, “Mom I don’t want to go, the other birds will never stop making fun of me, please, I don’t want to go!”

 His mom responded by trying to give him hope. She said, “I promise, your classmates will see what a wonderful bird you are, and then your physical differences won’t matter. Give it time my son.” After hearing his mother’s message, Luis felt better enough to fly to school. He perched himself on the same branch and hoped the other birds would be nicer today.

“Hey Luis! We wanted to apologize for being really mean to you and we want to be your friends”, the birds declared. Luis was so surprised to see everyone without feathers on their head. The recess bell rang and all the birds flew down to the floor and began to play soccer, but this time alongside Luis. When the sun began to shine on all of the bird’s heads, they ran to the river to cool down. There the birds realized it is easy to make fun of someone without understanding their situation. In the end, everyone became friends with each other and learned to be accepting of all birds. THE END.”

During the festival, a wonderful poet from the Bolivar’s neighborhood, Itzi Rivera, presented his monologue “The Monologue of The Talingo.” An excerpt is published below:

“I had a lot of trees where I could nest and where I could eat
And my brothers the talingos and I

Our song did not alter the inhabitants
And we didn’t have an overpopulation before
Better yet, we controlled the plague of insects

But Human Beings act foolish
Not throwing the trash away in its rightful place
It has made us alter our home

That noisy behavior
Only means alteration
Because the equilibrium of the environment
Is heading towards destruction
And instead of listening to what we are saying
That if you don’t change your bad habits
You will be the ones that will start dying”

After the powerful poem, the music band UNACHI followed to wind down for the evening. For the closinga typical Panamanian dance called “La Cuchareta” was performed, an allusion to bird courtship.

At the end of the festival, all the participants showed enthusiasm with the activities they were involved in. They also expressed their interest in participating in future events about bird conservation and environmental awareness. Our hope is that this event becomes institutionalized and inspires new generations to care about their local birds and biodiversity. We would also like to effectively inform the community about sustainable actions they can take to benefit birds and their environment. We must protect the ecosystem we share with the birds, with the whole country of Panama, and with the world.

If you would like to read the full report about the festival and learn more about all the groups and people who were involved in creating this event, you can download it by clicking here. A special thanks to the Alcaldía del Municipio de David.

To find out about other activities happening in Panama, and to join this effort, follow Detectives de Aves-Panama on Facebook!

Pictures Captured by Elida Valdes, Eduardo Pacay, Foto Ponce, ICADES, and Jorge Pittí.

This page was created by: Ashley Calderón.

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