In 2018, hundreds of thousands of people took part in the Year of the Bird to build a better world for birds. Declared as Year of the Bird by National Geographic, National Audubon Society, Cornell Lab of Ornithology and BirdLife International, 2018 marked the centennial of the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. Here are a few ways we joined in the celebration to protect birds and inspire others to do the same.
We Enhanced Experiences for People and Birds
Last April, we reopened the Wings of the World building following a renovation to brighten and liven up the space for both birds and people. Thanks in part to a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, all new signage and interactives were installed to connect families to birds and inspire them to be better bird neighbors. At the same time, we switched all of the lighting over to LED for greater energy efficiency, and we supplemented with UVA-emitting lights and installed new skylights to provide more natural lighting for the birds. And many of the habitats received new vegetation, perching and substrates to maintain a dynamic environment for our feathered friends.
Then in summer, we welcomed guests to the new and improved outdoor Free Flight Aviary adjacent to the Wings of the World building. Stepping into the aviary, guests can observe up close a variety of bird species from across the globe interacting in the same space.
And we brought bald eagles back to the Zoo! The former Monkey Island habitat transformation included a brand new, lushly planted habitat for bald eagles that have been rescued from the wild. Their injuries prevent them from being able to hunt on their own and they cannot be released back into the wild.
We also invited award-winning illustrator, Melanie Reim, to visit the Zoo for a few days as an artist-in-residence to help us celebrate Year of the Bird. Check out her fantastic work below!
We Brought Rare Birds to Life
As a member of the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, we participate in many Species Survival Plans (SSP) to cooperatively manage and ensure the survival of select species in human care and enhance their conservation in the wild. Our aviculture team celebrated spectacular success in breeding two rare species, in particular, this year.
One of only four U.S. zoos to breed and raise the Raggiana bird-of-paradise in the last decade, we were excited to welcome a chick this year—the fourth one to be hatched and raised here. The Raggiana bird-of-paradise is only found on the island nation of New Guinea, and it is best known for the male’s extremely long tail feathers and extravagant courtship displays.
Later in the year, we hatched a couple of Guam rail chicks. The Guam rail is extinct in its natural range on the island of Guam. Reintroduction efforts are underway on the island of Rota, just south of Guam, and there’s a good chance that these chicks could be released if deemed appropriate by the SSP. They cannot be released onto Guam just yet as efforts to control the invasive brown tree snake that ate all but the last few Guam rails, which were brought into human care, are still ongoing. We have a long history of working with this species, but it’s been about 10 years since we had chicks.
We Made Cincinnati Safer for Songbirds
Every spring and fall, millions of songbirds migrate through Ohio on their way to and from their breeding grounds. Along the way, bright lights from tall buildings can draw birds toward the city at night, causing them to become disoriented and/or crash into buildings. Turning out lights from midnight to dawn during migration seasons can help prevent this problem. Through a collaboration with the Ohio Bird Conservation Initiative, we partnered with the Cincinnati Museum Center and Cincinnati Nature Center to established a Lights Out Cincinnati initiative, joining 26 other U.S. cities committed to helping migratory birds travel safely by asking community members to turn lights off during migration seasons.
During the day, birds fly into windows because they cannot see the glass. The solution is to make windows more visible, and there are a variety of ways to do so. Here at the Zoo, we are doing our part to prevent bird collisions. This past year, we identified the glass at the Malayan tiger habitat as the biggest trouble spot for birds in the Zoo. In October, we installed a Feather Friendly dot decal pattern on the window to break the space into small enough spaces that birds will not try to fly through, and we haven’t documented any strikes there since. This coming year, we plan to treat the cougar glass, too.
We Helped Local Raptors Recover
Serving Southern Ohio for over 40 years, Raptor Inc. is dedicated to the conservation of local birds of prey via rehabilitation, education, and research. Each year, they treat hundreds of injured or ill raptors and are successful in releasing over half of them back into the wild. This year, we provided funding to support Raptor Inc. in acquiring new laboratory equipment and supplies that enable them to screen for viruses and run a variety of tests to help diagnose and properly treat birds more efficiently.
Even though the Year of the Bird has come to a close, we will continue our efforts to build a better home for birds across the world and right here at home. Won’t you join us?