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Host your own Bird Day event

Nature Canada / Initiatives / Bird Day / Host your own Bird Day event

Bird Day events can be as simple or complicated as you wish. The goal though is to enjoy and celebrate our migratory birds with others. Try to address the Bird Day theme in your activities. We provide example of several types of activities that you can do independently, or combine as the basis for a festival or ‘Bird Fair.’

A word on the annual theme of International Migratory Bird Day

Each year, Environment for the Americas canvases Bird Day event organizers from across the Americas to determine the Bird Day theme for the upcoming year. The theme in 2017 is “Helping Birds along the way.” Take some time to explore this topic on your Bird Day.

Host a Bird Day Festival

Image of two children sitting in a bird nest installation

Photo by Joshua McCullough

In many countries bird festivals celebrate birds through art, music, food, literature and other cultural activities. By combining photography exhibits, wildlife art displays, music inspired by nature, nature or bird-themed book signings, with traditional birding activities like bird walks, workshops and presentations, you can celebrate birds and nature in unique and inspiring ways. Festivals typically reach much larger audiences and appeal to a wide range of ages, tastes and cultures, particularly if cultural diversity can be included in aspects of the programming. Think of your event as an opportunity to appeal to new audiences – multicultural associations, schools, outdoors clubs, photographic clubs, etc. Try working with other cultural groups in your community when planning your bird day.

There are many festivals already held in Canada and beyond, all easily found through your preferred internet search engine. The Bird Fair UK is a great source of inspiration for what is possible! Our Find an Event webpage will give you a good picture of where the Bird Day events are in Canada.

Festivals require large and appropriate venues. Municipal parks can provide excellent venues, particularly if public washrooms are nearby! It is important to keep in mind that developing a partnership with a municipality (town or city) is very helpful for a successful Bird Day event. It’s also best to host an event when the likelihood of observing birds is high. The spring and fall migrations offer the best opportunities to see the most bird species.

Lead a bird parade

image of children in bird costumes
What: A Bird Day parade is an event appropriate for children, and a way of having fun by engaging the children in the act of migration (between two points like a school and a natural area). The parade could represent the migratory route of one or more species of birds. The idea is simple: participants dress up as their favourite birds, a species at risk, or birds from their imagination by creating their own masks, beaks or wings. They can also make models or cut-outs of these birds to carry. Dressed in their bird costumes, the children are led on a walk or march that simulates the migration route. They can sing songs while walking, or even try imitating the songs and calls of the birds that they are pretending to be. If done in a public space always be respectful of others.

Who: A school class, a young naturalist group or a Sunday school class are examples of groups to involve in a bird parade. Get a few classes together to get a large group dressed up to really make an impression with lots of colourful costumes. Give the children time to research their species first.

Where: Walk from your school to a local park or natural area. Alternatively, walk down a safe pedestrian street where you are sure to be seen in your spring finest.

Remember: be aware of traffic and safety concerns when you plan your route. Be sure to have enough parents and teachers to keep track of everyone. If you are having an event on city property, you may need a permit. You can contact your local media and invite them to see everyone in their costumes.

Visit this post on the Nature Canada blog to read about  a bird parade with Ottawa school children and how it was a blast! (http://naturecanada.ca/news/quick-get-the-binocs-its-a-bird-migration/) or check out the video from the day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BzRtOj3gDRo).

Lead a bird hike

image of people lining up in a park
What: Explore nature trails in your area to observe birds in their habitats. This is likely the easiest Bird Day activity to organize.

Where: During migration, most natural areas in an urban setting provide habitat for birds, especially if there are a variety of habitat types – forest, water, shrubby areas, natural edges, and fruit and berry producing plants. Remember, birds are early risers, so it’s best to start early in the morning.

When: In Southern Canada, May is the best month for spring migration for landbirds and early to mid-April for waterfowl, while September and October are best for bidding adieu to the 80% of “our” birds that leave Canada to spend their winters somewhere warmer. North of 50 degrees latitude, the peak spring period is late May and early June for arrival, whereas departure can take place from mid-July to October. Waterfowl arrive earlier and leave later.

Who: The hike should be led by an experienced birder who can help the novice and beginner birders learn the basics of birding: how to spot birds, how to listen for birds, how to identify birds, proper binocular use, birding ethics, and the best places to search for birds. Birding in a group requires good group management skills. Participants usually need to be quiet and move slowly, and know how to react if a bird is observed. Keep a list of the birds that are observed and share with the participants. Entering this list on the popular internet site eBird is a great follow-up to the outing.

Remember: Choose a path for which the length and difficulty is appropriate for all participants. Provide clear expectations to participants about the distance and terrain they will be covering as well as the expected duration of the hike. Remember to keep track of your participants so that you start and end the hike with the same number of people!

Host talks, presentations and symposia

Image of a woman wearing a headset speaking with her arms open

Photo by Joshua McCullough

What: A presentation (talk) or a symposium (a group of presentations or talks) is an event to present ideas, projects, local expertise and issues to a public audience. This can be done as a lectures, presentations, question and answer sessions, and even story-telling. Use the annual Bird Day theme to structure the talks.

Where: If part of a larger event (such as a festival), use a separate space such as a large tent or amphitheatre. Otherwise, typical venues include a naturalist club headquarters, a community centre, a local library, an auditorium, a school, or a church hall. You could also arrange to visit a school class or organization meeting such as a local scouts group.

When: If part of a festival, avoid scheduling talks at times when they would compete with busy or noisy activities, such as music or live animal shows. Otherwise, this activity can take place any time participants are available to attend. Evenings and weekends are usually the best.

Who: Bird experts from a university, a naturalist or field ornithology group, a bird rehabilitation centre, a birding store, or a bird observatory. Experienced speakers are an asset.

Cost: The cost of renting the space and any interpretive props you require. Speakers may request an honorarium to offset their travel costs.

image of children looking at a banded bird

by Matthew Tokaruk

Bird Banding Demonstrations

What: Bird banding is an important tool used in the scientific study and monitoring of wild birds. Uniquely numbered metal bands placed on the foot of birds allow tracking of individual birds throughout their life time. The recovery of bands (from recaptured birds or dead banded birds) is the main method of determining where birds go and what their life expectancy can be. Bird banders must be licensed by the Government of Canada. Bird banding came into common use as a method to study birds in the late 1800s, and is still popular and widely used today.

Where: A banding demonstration can take place anywhere that a bird bander feels comfortable and confident that he/she can provide the demonstration while not compromising the safety of the birds or the public. In addition to having a bander conduct a demonstration for your event, consider visiting a bird observatory as one of your Bird Day activities. Bird observatories are found in most provinces of Canada. Many of these observatories offer bird banding demonstrations to the public upon request. Contact a bird observatory near you to arrange a visit during their hours of operation and see birds being banded! Speak to staff and volunteers to organize a bird banding demonstration.

Who: Many bird banders are willing to demonstrate banding to a public audience. Find your bird banding association through an internet search engine, or contact a bird observatory through the link above.

Host a Film Festival

What: Have a movie night as part of your Welcome Back Birds festivities. Here are some family friendly, light-hearted bird-themed movies:

The Big Year
A Birder’s guide to Everything
The Birder
The Messenger

More films:
Hoot (2006) – A young man (Lerman) moves from Montana to Florida with his family, where he’s compelled to engage in a fight to protect a population of endangered owls.
March of the Penguins (2005) – A look at the annual journey of Emperor penguins as they march — single file — to their traditional breeding ground.
UP (2009) – By tying thousands of balloons to his home, 78-year-old Carl sets out to fulfill his lifelong dream to see the wilds of South America. Russell, a wilderness explorer 70 years younger, inadvertently becomes a stowaway.
Paulie (1998) – Life from a parrot’s point of view
Fly Away Home (1996) – A father and daughter decide to attempt to lead a flock of orphaned Canada Geese south by air.

Where: Screen your favorite bird-themed movie at a local theatre or outdoor cinema or public gathering place. Contact your local university to see if they’re willing to screen your film!

Who: For a public showing you’ll need to access the screening rights for the movie which come at a cost. For a small gathering you can purchase or rent the DVD, or borrow it from a library.  

Bird Crafts

Image of two children making crafts

Photo by Joshua McCullough

What: Encourage parents to bring their children to an IMBD event by providing child-friendly activities like bird stencils, a how-to on using binoculars, bird colouring books and junior birders guidebooks that help identify the parts of a bird and provide activities for children. Bird face painting, making bird masks, and bird bingo, which can facilitate discussion on birds and their calls, are a great hit with the kids!

Where: Anywhere you can set up a tent, chairs and tables! Public parks and trails are good places to find families out and about, enjoying nature. Make sure to contact the city or town authority that issues permits for events on public land!

Cost: Minimal. Reach out to your network for tents, chairs and tables. Many arts and crafts activities can be made using inexpensive materials purchased in bulk or with recycled materials.

Visit an Important Bird Area

What: Learn about the unique flora and fauna in your local IBA by exploring it on foot and in some cases, by boat. Make your observations count by participating in eBird – an online checklist for birders

Here are a few ideas on what you can do in most IBAs:

• Bicycling
• Walking/running
• Nature photography
• Canoeing/kayaking
• Bird watching
• Picnicking

Need more information on your local IBA? Visit the IBA Canada website and find your IBA in the IBA Directory.

Host a Walk-a-thon or Bird-a-thon

image of photo of people walking in a walk

Photo by Cristina Navarro

What: A walk/run along a pre-determined route or a bird count whose participants raise money for the cause of nature conservation, in this case, a celebration of birds and people.
When: Plan to host this event during a period of milder weather. This increases your chances of having people come out to support you! For birdathons, time your event with the spring or fall migration to make the most of birding opportunities in your area.

Who: People of all ages can and do participate in walkathons and birdathons. These types of fundraisers benefit from large numbers of active participants.

For examples of birdathons and walkathons fundraising for nature conservation see the links below:

Nature New Brunswick’s Amazing Bird Count
The Great Canadian Birdathon
Fundraising Tips from Seattle Audubon
Nature Walkathon

Band a Visitor

What: Teach people about the bird banding process by banding visitors to an event.

Materials Needed: 1 volleyball or badminton net. 1 bathroom scale. 1 measuring tape or meter stick. Wrist bands or Velcro leg bands.

Set up: Prepare the bird bands (from paper or other materials) by numbering each one with a unique number. Design a data sheet that includes Species. Each person’s name may represent the genus (first name) and species (last name), or give them a 4 letter code like birds have. For example John Smith would be JOSM. Also include sex (male or female), age, wingspan (length of the arm), and weight (optional, especially if you are including adults).

How it Works: Have each participant approach the net. A bander goes to the net to collect the “bird.” The bander then takes the participant to the banding “station,” bands each participant, and collects the data, recording all of the information on the datasheet. This activity provides many opportunities to discuss how birds are captured using nets, the banding process, and the importance of the data. You can add additional stations throughout the event and “recapture” participants. You could also draw the banding ID numbers for door prizes.

After the event: tally the data collected and create a report with banding totals, statistics of who was banded, peak banding hours and whatever else you think might be interesting to report.

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