11 May 2018

Many voices, one song: children across Africa sing for migratory birds

In honour of World Migratory Bird Day, school children from across the African-Eurasian flyway perform songs that pay homage to the birds that pass through their country. Every song is different, but their message is the same: we must all join together to protect our migratory birds.

Zire Sbekha School in Mauritaina has no electricity, but the community is very active in conservation
Zire Sbekha School in Mauritaina has no electricity, but the community is very active in conservation
By Jessica Law & Margaret Sessa-Hawkins

This year, to celebrate World Migratory Bird Day, we wanted to do something really special. So we asked schools and BirdLife Partners across the African continent to send in videos of them singing songs about the wonders of bird migration. The results blew us away. The videos were amazing – and all but one were written by the children themselves, driving home the passion and devotion the young generation feels towards conserving their natural world. 


Watch the highlights

In the videos, children from seven different countries sing seven very different songs, in very different styles. Three are in French, and four in local languages. Some are subtle and contemplative, some wow us with masterfully coordinated dance routines. Some videos are flashily edited, others succeed despite limited resources. They reflect the different traditions of the countries they were made in, and the different bird habitats the children come across in their day to day lives.

All the songs are different, yes, but all the children are singing in harmony: united in their love for migratory birds. The same messages come through time and time again: migratory birds see no borders. Birds join people together, no matter their differences. We are proud of our birds: they are part of who we are, and we want to protect them. Here are their songs in full.


Mauritania: Nature Mauritania

Lyrics: We protect our environment for a better life. / We will not tolerate any bad behaviour towards our environment. / Because that's what we live for / We must conserve the wetlands around us to use them rationally and pass them on to future generations. / We will fight to conserve the sites. / Through our hands, our mouths and our eyes, we will protect our Nature and we will live in a better environment where everyone will find their place, men and animals alike. / Our nature is our security and our peace, without it we cease to exist.

Story:  The children of Zire Sbekha School live in a village located inside the National Park of Diawling. The park is a RAMSAR site, meaning that it has been designated as a wetland site of international importance. Despite not having electricity, the community is very involved in educational programs within the park. Last year, on World Migratory Bird Day, school students went on birdwatching trips throughout the park to learn more about the birds being celebrated. Nature Mauritania (BirdLife partner) helped to organize these educational outings.


Cote D’Ivoire: SOS Foret

Lyrics: Birds, adorable beings / Birds, Migrants / Have no borders / Have no country / Unifying our voices for the birds of the world / Unifying our voices to save birds / They give us the joy of living / We need them to live better, they protect us / They give us the joy of living / They protect us

Story: Since 1996, SOS Foret (BirdLife Cote D’Ivoire) has been working to protect forests and biodiversity in the country. With fourteen different sites identified as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, there’s a lot to protect. The excitement demonstrated by the children, however, shows the future of conservation in Cote D’Ivoire is in good hands.


Burundi: ABN

Lyrics: Knights, terns like to come to Burundi / Gulls arrive in the family that loves them / We children and you parents / Protect migratory birds from all nuisances and poachers

Story: Make way for the next boy band: Guy Merci Nkurunziza and Kanny Prince Igiraneza give a spirited performance of their catchy composition, accompanied by a full-on music video created by ABN (BirdLife in Burundi). ABN strives to preserve the forests and wetlands of this densely-populated country, despite the expansion of urban areas into natural habitats, which recently forced a hippo to invade a suburban bird walk.


Djibouti: Djibouti Nature

Lyrics: There's a little bird that once took flight (x2) / That once took, a-fluttering (x2) That once took flight. / That once took flight to an orange tree (x2) / To an, oh, a-fluttering (x2) / To an orange tree.

The branch was so dry that the bird fell down (x2) That the bird, a-fluttering (x2) That the bird fell down. / My dear little bird, say, did you get hurt? (x2) Say, did you, a-fluttering, (x2) Say, did you get hurt?

Story:  The song being sung by the children is a traditional French nursery rhyme, originating from at least the 16th century. It’s fitting that the children are singing this song, as Djibouti is a critical bottleneck site for migrating birds: nearly one million pass through the country’s skies every year. Djibouti Nature (BirdLife partner) takes its role as a protector of these birds seriously. One of their key projects involves raising awareness of the importance of conservation through outreach to elementary school teachers, so that children like the ones in this video will understand the important role they play in protecting the country’s birds and nature as a whole.


Morocco: GREPOM

Lyrics: The migratory birds, they leave but they come back / They are very important to nature and human life / And that is why we love them.

Story: The children of Oualidia Private School gathered in Oualidia Ecological Teaching Centre to give an enthusiastic homage to their winged companions. The Ecological Centre, run by GREPOM (BirdLife in Morocco), provides training that empowers local groups to put conservation projects into action. Every year, it also hosts the World Migratory Bird Day celebrations, with an exciting program of events including photo competitions and nest box-making workshops.


Guinea-Bissau: ODZH

Lyrics: Migratory bird, I am a migratory bird / I witness your travels / I make the link between people and ecosystems / I reveal the existence of renewable resources / I am a migratory bird / I'm the link between organizations / I am a part of life's history / I am the beauty of landscapes / I am not only a bird but also a vision of the world that is yours.

Story: As the song says, migratory birds are a ‘link between the organizations’. This fact is very clear in Guinea-Bissau where OZDH (Organização para a Defesa o Desenvolvimento das Zonas Humidas), which produced this video, is a member of the Conservation of Migratory Birds project. The organization works with local communities, but also with groups from seven other countries internationally, to ensure that migratory birds have safe passage along the Western coast of Africa.


Senegal: Kalissaye Ornithological Nature Reserve

Lyrics: Yes all the birds are there, in the green foliage / They whisper their big wings / And chirp their concert / And confuse the air / Happy havoc!

Story: The children from Hillol School went to extraordinary lengths to record this beautifully-written song in the nature reserve in which it is set, with limited resources available. Hillol School, located within Kalissaye Ornithological Nature Reserve (an important RAMSAR site), is extremely remote, and only reachable to visitors via several hours by boat. In order to send us the video, the school teacher had to wade across mangroves to find the nearest wifi hotspot – talk about dedication!

Read about BirdLife’s other educational activities taking place at Kalissaye Nature Reserve here.