Bird festival debuts in Vancouver as international convention takes off

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How about starting your week in bird costume and parading on stilts?

This is exactly what some Vancouver residents are planning to do to start a festival celebrating local birds and to mark an international bird conference to be held in the city.

Dr Farah Shroff is part of a group that has been designing costumes and practicing bird-mimicking stilts for months in preparation for the inaugural Vancouver International Bird Festival.

“I have completely fallen in love with birds to the point that I really want to be one now, like I have no more dreams of flying,” she said. “It’s so much fun.”

“Toot, toot, toot”, let’s be birds!

A group called Birds on Parade is training for the opening of the Vancouver International Bird Festival. 0:32

On Monday, the group will march from Harbor Green Park to Coal Harbor to the Vancouver Convention Center.

Hub for bird lovers

The parade kicks off a week of activities focused on the world of birds and marks the 27th International Ornithological Congress, which runs until August 26 at the convention center.

Just one of the many bird costumes for the bird parade. (Jon Hernandez / CBC)

Held every four years, the congress welcomes bird watchers from around the world who share their research and conservation efforts. About 2,000 bird watchers are expected in Vancouver for the event, which has only taken place once in Canada before.

Lucia Liu Seveirnghaus, president of the International Union of Bird Watchers, says Vancouver is the perfect location to host the convention.

“Canada has many new achievements to impress bird watchers around the world since the organization of the Congress in Ottawa in 1986,” Seveirnghaus wrote in his welcome message to delegates.

The city is also a hub for bird lovers and on a major migratory route for different species.

While the convention takes place every four years, volunteer John Keller says the plan is to make the bird festival an annual event.

“Well the birding community is very active and it’s an attempt to bring attention to all that birds bring to our communities,” he said.

Key part of the ecosystem

Birds are a key part of ecosystems as they provide pest control and pollination, and spread seeds.

Vancouver has a bird strategy that aims to make the city a world leader in supporting native birds year round by 2020.

The city says that due to human settlement, industry and forestry, there has been a 35% decline in bird species in the Pacific Coast region since 1970.

Mary Thomas of Williams Lake, British Columbia, dressed as a crow. (Jon Hernandez)

Birder Jodie Simmons says she is excited about the festival and the convention. She hopes this will encourage others to think more about the importance of birds.

“They are just fascinating,” she said. “These little things, you can learn so much about them. It’s an interesting hobby, and it’s not easy.”

With files from Jon hernandez


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