Children Celebrate Birds in Mindo, Ecuador

Outdoor experiences from an early age, whether in our home garden, the neighborhood park, or a nearby forest, introduce children to the wonders of nature. Children possess an innate curiosity towards birds and wildlife, and these experiences offer opportunities to discover and learn. Children can get excited about learning the physical details of birds, their behaviors, feeding habits, and much more. The Mini Kids Fair in Mindo, Ecuador was a celebration of this curiosity. This event was organized by Jardines Silvestres organization and supported by Programa de Aves Urbanas de Ecuador (PAU Ecuador), the Biodiversity Association of Ecuador, and Hostería la Roulotte. Additionally, it received support from the Cornell University Lab of Ornithology mini-grants program for Latin America and the Caribbean and took place as part of the XII South American Bird Fair.

The Mini Kids Fair welcomed young participants from Mindo, other regions of Ecuador, and other countries. These participants, with enthusiasm and curiosity, immersed themselves in a series of activities from the “Celebrate the Birds of Ecuador” Environmental Education Manual. These activities were guided by coordinators including Jennifer Romero from PAU Ecuador, from AVISTAR Brazil, and Sandra Espinoza from Jardines Silvestres. These activities aimed not just to engage but to instill an appreciation for birds and the vital importance of preserving nature.

kids outside working on a project involving wood

The activities began with creating a comfortable environment to talk about birds and foster friendship. The program began with interactive games covering general information about birds. This established a foundation for participants to share their personal experiences and perceptions. This ensured that all participants had a common understanding. After this informative introduction, the children embarked on an artistic journey, painting and coloring their favorite birds. This activity allowed them to delve into the unique characteristics of each species. Such artistic endeavors not only deepened their knowledge about the details of birds but also increased their expectations for outdoor bird-watching activities.

Before leaving, the children made cardboard binoculars, learning in an entertaining way to use recycled material while letting their imagination fly when decorating them. Once the binoculars were ready, they headed to the bamboo maze at Hostería la Roulotte. There, they went in search of nature’s treasures, an activity they greatly enjoyed discovering the flora, fauna, and fungi of this unique place in Mindo.

Kids painting their handmade cardboard binoculars

In the afternoon, after a delicious lunch, Gonzalo Nazati, a bird illustrator, shared his knowledge with the children, using the colored pencil drawing technique. He taught them step by step how to draw the Choco Toucan (Ramphastos brevis), declared the emblematic bird of Pichincha, while learning about the different parts of the bird, what it eats, and where it lives.

Alongside Caio Celeste, Theo Mich, Felipe Celeste, and Daniel Cywinski from AVISTAR Brazil, the children created bird feeders using bamboo. They learned about bird feeding, what kinds of food can be placed in the feeders, and the best way to maintain them. This allows for the enjoyment of bird visits in gardens and terraces, while at the same time protecting the health and well-being of these beautiful, feathered beings.

Laura Meneses Cerón, a 12-year-old girl and a member of Red de Niños Observadores de Aves del Huila (Colombia), shared her experience on the “Huila Bird Protection and Conservation Program,” a project where boys and girls, parents, educational institutions, foundations, and community-based associations share knowledge of the avifauna in the Department of Huila. This is done through public outreach and communication with the aim of fostering community empowerment around respect, protection, and conservation of natural resources and birds in the territory.

The day concluded with a beautiful play, “The Fairy Who Dances with the Wind,” by Dragon of Polylepis. This artistic expression delved into the enchanting world of birds, especially the Black-breasted Puffleg (Eriocnemis nigrivestis), a rare and critically endangered hummingbird found only in some mountains near Quito, in Ecuador. The play aimed to inform the children about the challenges birds face to survive and inspire them to participate in conservation from their own spaces. That night, the children went home happy, ready to dream about birds, the beauty of nature.

Girls dressed in bird costumes preforming a dance for the public

At dawn the following day, the newly acquired skills to observe and identify birds were put to the test during a visit to the Ornithological Point, a captivating place for its beauty, forests, and charming birds. This practical experience allowed the children to feed hummingbirds from their own hands and observe a variety of birds in their natural environment. One of the most outstanding experiences included observing a pair of Pacific Parrotlets (Forpus coelestis) building their nest by bringing material for it and watching the impressive display of the Sunbittern (Eurypyga helias) on the riverbank, deepening their appreciation and understanding of free-living birds even further.

The Mini Kids Fair was a complete success, captivating the young attendees with the wonders and diversity of birds, and igniting a passion for environmental protection. It highlighted the invaluable contributions of scientists and educators committed to bird study and conservation. Furthermore, the event served as a vital bridge, strengthening ties among Jardines Silvestres, the Asociación Biodiversidad Ecuador, the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, and PAU Ecuador as well as with other organizations involved in the XII South American Bird Fair.

Photos courtesy of Jardines Silvestres

Article written by Daniela Caisaguano