Family Community Service; It’s For the Birds!

Posted March 8, 2020 by Shelby Hyatt

The Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden is proud to be in its 4th year of the Family Community Service (FCS) program. The FCS program began in 2017 as a way to bring community and wildlife together; two key pillars of our mission to create adventure, covey knowledge, conserve nature and serve the community. The Zoo wanted to connect the people of Greater Cincinnati to the wildlife beyond its own gates; the wildlife in the community’s own backyards and instill a sense of ownership and pride for these urban habitats. Each month a conservation-focused event was to be held. This could range from a river clean up to invasive species removal, native plant propagation to a community cleanup. Since the Family Community Service programs inception in 2017, we have held 29 events with a total of 837 participants in attendance. Each year our volunteer base has grown and we currently have 306 individuals and families in the program.  

To start off the first quarter of our 4th year of the program we have been focusing on birds and our natives in particular. We kicked off the 2020 year with a native bird house building event here at the Zoo. 47 individuals including families and other zoo volunteers joined us in creating birdhouses for our native Tree Swallows and Bluebirds. In just one hour we had 42 finished birdhouses that FCS members then took home to spread throughout the Greater Cincinnati area. These birdhouses will provide an important shelter and nesting area for our native birds and many migrating birds as well. This, however, is not the only benefit to birdhouses; controlling pests and weeds, flower pollination and an increase in property value are all potential added benefits of a bird house. Native birds love to eat those pest insects in your garden and also have a hankering for the seeds of many weed species. Many species of birds are also excellent pollinators and lastly, a well-maintained bird house can add curb appeal to your home and increase your property value. It’s a win for everyone! 

We continued our focus on birds into February with the 22nd annual Great Backyard Bird Count, a collaborative citizen science project of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, National Audubon Society, and Bird Studies Canada that began in 1998. GBBC is a wonderful opportunity to get outside for a weekend of bird watching and identification. Perfect for the beginner bird enthusiast or an avid birder. According to the National Audubon Society, “In 2019, Great Backyard Bird Count participants in more than 100 countries counted more than 6,800 species of birds on more than 200,000 checklists!” On February 15th, a crisp Saturday morning, we set out to Burnett Woods and were joined by 25 FCS members. We spent an hour bird watching and recorded an impressive 157 individual birds from 23 different species. Our findings really resonated with the group and solidified the notion that wildlife truly is everywhere and these urban green-spaces are essential to their survival. 

Now we invite you to join us in 2020 during our monthly FCS events where we will be having a neighborhood cleanup, Frog Watch citizen science event, Bowyer Farm planting event, Little Miami River & Ohio River clean ups, and Monarch tagging just to name a few. If this is something that has woken up your inner environmentalist please checkout our webpage and sign up to become a member of the Family Community Service program today!