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Category — Education

International Migratory Bird Day: Get Outside and Go Birding!

Each year, International Migratory Bird Day is celebrated on the second Saturday in May, just as the orioles, warblers, tanagers and hummingbirds are returning to Cincinnati. About 200 bird species fly south to Central and South America in search of nourishment during the winter. In the spring, they return to the United States and Canada to breed and raise a family when the days are long and our backyards are bursting with insects, flowers, and fruits to eat. Some stay in Ohio for the summer, but many just stop to rest and feed along the way.

Chestnut sided warbler (Photo: Dave Jenike)

Chestnut sided warbler (Photo: Dave Jenike)

What better way is there to celebrate the return of our migratory birds than to get outside and go birding? Birdwatching is a great way to connect with nature and learn more about the wildlife around you. Grab some binoculars, a field guide and a notebook to record your sightings and get outside!

Birding is a great family activity!

Birding is a great family activity!

In addition to our local parks, wetlands and woodlands, the Zoo is a fantastic place to see native birds. Our lushly planted grounds, featuring a diversity of native trees and plants, attract plenty of winged wonders from warblers to waterfowl to raptors. Last year, I even personally witnessed a bald eagle flying over the Zoo. Be on the lookout especially along the edge of Swan Lake, by the Native Plants Garden, and in the Wolf Woods exhibit area. Who says the Zoo is just for viewing exotic wildlife?

Mama wood duck and her ducklings on Swan Lake (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

Mama wood duck and her ducklings on Swan Lake (Photo: Jeff McCurry)

Migratory birds face many challenges along their journey, one of which is finding safe places to rest and refuel on the way. Why not make your space a more bird-friendly place? Whether you have a large backyard or just an apartment window, you can make a difference. For example, you can go wild by landscaping your yard with native trees, bushes and flowers or simply offer native plants in window boxes. Set up bird feeders and baths, and keep your cat indoors (these non-natural predators kill billions of birds every year).

Goldfinch at a bird feeder

Goldfinch at a bird feeder

Here at the Zoo, we have embarked on a two-year process of renovating the public space within the Wings of the World exhibit (aka Bird House) to enhance our ability to connect guests to nature through our feathered friends and encourage them to become better bird neighbors. Though you won’t see any permanent changes to the building until next spring, we are well into the research and planning stages, and we’d love to hear from you.

  • How would you describe your connection to birds?
  • Do you have a great bird story to share?
  • What do you think we could do in the bird house to arouse your interest in birds and motivate you to become more aware of what’s going on in the bird world around you?

Your feedback will help us create the best experience possible!

(This project is made possible in part by the Institute of Museum and Library Services.)

May 14, 2016   No Comments

Visit the Zoo’s EcOhio Farm and Buy Native Plants

On May 14, we invite you to come out to the Zoo’s EcOhio Farm and Wetland. Learn about the land’s history and take a piece of it home with you as we host our annual Native Plant Sale from 9:00am to 1:00pm. Nearly 200 species of native wildflowers, trees and shrubs, including those that you see throughout the EcOhio ecosystem, will be for sale. Cash, check, and credit card will be accepted.

Coneflower (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Coneflower (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Over the past few years, we’ve been hard at work on this off-site property formerly known as Bowyer Farm. This nearly 530-acre site in Warren County now offers a 24-acre reclaimed wetland, a 100-acre organic farm, newly established honeybee hives, and an abundance of birds and other wildlife that has moved in or stopover during their migration.

Gadwall spotted at EcOhio wetlands (Photo: Brian Jorg)

Gadwall spotted at EcOhio wetlands (Photo: Brian Jorg)

You can also learn about Pollen Nation and what this group has been doing to support pollinator conservation. Fifteen new beehives on EcOhio Farm are home to thousands of honeybees that help pollinate the entire ecosystem. Observe honeybees up close through an observation frame, and learn how these busy creatures keep us, and their hives, fed.

Honeybees

Honeybees

Zoo staff and master gardeners will be on hand throughout the day to share how this unique ecosystem is all connected and how you can recreate it in your own backyard. See the farm, hike the wetland, and learn about the Zoo’s future plans for this thriving oasis in the middle of the suburbs.

EcOhio Farm is located at 2210 north  Mason-Montgomery Road, Lebanon, OH 45036.

*Please note this is a working farm and ecosystem. Bathrooms may not be available.

 

May 9, 2016   No Comments

More than Plumage Deep: Animal Attraction

Guest blogger: Kristina Meek, Education/Wild Encounters

The bright plumage of a peacock is so unmistakable that we use it as a metaphor for showing off to prospective romantic partners. When a male peacock unfurls its brilliant tail feathers, you can’t help but stop and stare. When you walk through the Zoo, you’ll almost certainly encounter one of our male peacocks, crooning his relationship status or proudly displaying his colorful fan. He might even try to distract you from other, less colorful animals, by inserting himself between you and them! (If you’d like to learn the cool way that the structure of the peacock’s feathers produces the glorious colors, check out these findings from 2003.)

Look at me! (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

Look at me! (Photo: Cassandre Crawford)

It’s spring, which means mating season for many animals, so it’s a great time to notice how animals preen, prance or patter in hopes of propagating their species.

We talked about mating signals during a recent  Zoo Troop session for 6th through 8th graders called “Be Mine.” The students observed birds, fish, and other creatures, learning about physical traits, actions, sounds, and scents that animals use to say, “Relationship Status: Available.”

We giggled a bit at the similarities between the human animal and some of the others out there. Humans choose clothing, hairstyles, perfumes, and workouts often with the goal of attracting a mate. Is a rock star strutting and belting a song so different from a male bird calling to passing females? Are our fashion choices so different from scales or plumage? We even studied the bower bird, which spends weeks building an elaborate “bachelor pad” complete with bling that he painstakingly gathers from his environment. Do you know anyone like that? There’s no doubt, we have a lot in common with wild animals.

John shows off his luxurious mane. (Photo: DJJAM)

John shows off his luxurious mane. (Photo: DJJAM)

An animal’s tools of attraction indicate that animal’s fitness, meaning the quality of its genetic material. Picking a mate who is strong, capable, and beautiful tends to mean their offspring will be the same. A lion with a lush mane is better protected during battles with rivals. A brighter pink flamingo has chowed on more shrimp. Some animals, from spiders to penguins, bring each other gifts, which may demonstrate the hunting prowess needed to feed young.

Lucky for humans, we’re able to see beneath the surface. What if you could only choose a partner based on outward signs or on what might be considered an ideal physical appearance? That would limit your choices considerably, and think of all that you might miss out on. We get to consider a person’s values and personality, likes and dislikes. We also have differing ideas about what is attractive. You might think someone is adorable who your friend finds positively plain.

As you explore the Zoo this spring, notice the mating rituals going on among the animals — even the human ones. Take a minute to consider how we’re alike and different from our fellow residents of planet Earth. And keep an eye out for the results of all this mating… Zoo babies!

One of the cheetah cubs in the Nursery now! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

One of the cheetah cubs in the Nursery now! (Photo: Mark Dumont)

 

May 2, 2016   No Comments