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Category — General Zoo

Why are there spots in these birds’ mouths?

Post co-authored by Aimee OwenGFinch1

The offspring of many finch species, like these Gouldian finch (Chloebia gouldiae) chicks, have luminous nodules, called papillae, on the sides of their beaks and markings on the inside of their mouths. Together, these act as sort of a “beacon” to direct the parents to the hungry mouths of their chicks in dark nest cavities.  Each species of finch has a different arrangement of papillae and mouth markings.  As each chick develops into an adult and begins to eat without parental assistance the papillae and markings gradually disappear.

Gouldian finches are a species of grass finch that inhabit the savannah regions of northern Australia.  Australian seasonal changes range from a dry season lasting about six months to a wet season, which lasts about three months.  These finches feed primarily on grass seeds throughout the year.  However, in the beginning of the dry season when the grasses turn brown and go dormant, an abundance of fallen seeds previously hidden become more available to the birds.  This period of plentiful food directly coincides with and activates the Gouldian finch breeding season. [Read more →]

January 28, 2014   1 Comment

Saving the Blues in Bolivia

The Blue-throated Macaw, found in the tropical savanna of northern Bolivia, is considered one of the most threatened bird species in the world.  For the past three years, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden has supported an effort to enhance Blue-throated Macaw reproduction in the wild through the Bird Endowment’s Nido Adoptivo project.. Initiated in 2007, Nido Adoptivo has installed hundreds of nest boxes to supplement natural breeding.

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Nest Box Supported by the Cincinnati Zoo

 

Intensive research on the macaw’s flight and migration patterns determined placement of the nest boxes.  The box design was modeled after natural nests found in holes of palm trees where chicks successfully hatched and fledged. Nest box position, depth, vertical and horizontal lengths, and the size of access holes were studied.  Additional modifications will be implemented for the 2013-2014 season.

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Chicks in the Cincinnati Zoo-sponsored nest

 

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Nest box placed high up on the trunk of a palm tree

 

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2012-2013 was the most successful year yet. Ten healthy Blue-throated Macaw chicks hatched and fledged from the boxes.

For the first time, a breeding pair was noted with leg bands, meaning they had been hatched some years earlier in the program.

A total of 39 Blue-throated Macaw chicks have been produced in Nido Adoptivo™ nest boxes during the previous six breeding seasons.

As a consequence of the program’s ongoing successes, we continue to see the population increase in the Southern Zone, with flocks of Blue-throated Macaws now traveling between five local private ranches. This was unheard of in the area five years ago.

Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is one of the 27 sponsors of the new and improved nest boxes being monitored during the 2013-2014 season which is underway.

Nido Adoptivo™ has begun the funding phase of the 2014-15 breeding season in anticipation of building upon seven consecutive years of success in Bolivia.

To learn how you can help support the Nido Adoptivo project, visit http://www.birdendowment.org/index.shtml.

January 23, 2014   1 Comment

Project Passenger Pigeon

Guest blogger: Sophie Williams, Advanced Inquiry Program (AIP) student and consultant on the Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation

2014 marks 100 years since the extinction of the passenger pigeon. It also marks the beginning of Project Passenger Pigeon—a year of events, exhibitions, and engagement to commemorate this anniversary and promote species conservation and habitat preservation. The Cincinnati Zoo is proud to be a part of this international effort, which brings together scientists, conservationists, educators, and artists, musicians, and filmmakers to increase awareness of the passenger pigeon’s story and use it as an opportunity to engage and motivate people to get involved in sustainable actions that promote biodiversity and deter future human-caused extinctions.

Project Passenger Pigeon Logo

Events will be taking place throughout the United States as part of Project Passenger Pigeon. Lectures and talks by scientists, researchers, and other experts on the passenger pigeon will be happening throughout the year, and educational exhibits will appear in many zoos, museums, and schools, including the renovation of our own Passenger Pigeon Memorial.

The arts will also play a significant role in engaging people in unique and meaningful ways with the story of the passenger pigeon, nature, and conservation. Project Passenger Pigeon will feature plays, poetry readings, and art installations around the country. A documentary film, From Billions to None, is also being created to illustrate the passenger pigeon’s history and impact.

Three new books on the passenger pigeon will be published this year. A Feathered River Across the Sky: The Passenger Pigeon’s Flight to Extinction, by naturalist Joel Greenberg, is the first major work on the bird in 60 years. Check out the book review in the New Yorker, and Greenberg’s discussion of the book and the importance of the story of the passenger pigeon to conservation on the Diane Rehm Show on NPR. A Research Associate at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum, Chicago Academy of Sciences (and organizer of Project Passenger Pigeon), and The Field Museum, Greenberg will give lectures and hold book signings throughout the year, including a stop in Ohio.

A Feathered River Across the Sky book cover

At the Cincinnati Zoo, we will renovate the current Passenger Pigeon Memorial thanks to a generous grant from the Luther Charitable Foundation. We will also take part in a variety of events related to Project Passenger Pigeon. For example, be sure to join us for a very special Barrows Lecture Series speaker; on September 3, John Ruthven will talk about his connection to the passenger pigeon through art. He will receive the 2014 Cincinnati Zoo Wildlife Conservation Award.

John Ruthven painting a mural of his original work - Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon

John Ruthven painting a mural of his original work – Martha, the Last Passenger Pigeon

We hope you will join us for some of the special events we have planned for this year – more details to come. In the meantime, we are moving forward with exciting new plans for our Passenger Pigeon Memorial renovation, which we can’t wait to share with you! This is shaping up to be a great year to recognize the efforts being made in wildlife conservation around the world.

To read the other posts in this series, click here. Join us next month as we highlight the Cincinnati Zoo’s efforts in species conservation and celebrate the work of others in our community and beyond.

January 10, 2014   No Comments