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Teaming up for native birds

Many of you may not know that being a Bird Keeper at Zoo Atlanta doesn’t just mean caring for the strange or exotic, but also caring for the hundreds of native birds found all over Zoo grounds. More than 75% of North American songbird populations are in decline, with 1 in 4 birds having disappeared since 1970. This means that there are about 3 billion fewer birds in North America than there were in 1970! There are many reasons for this decline, but two of the main culprits are habitat loss and window collisions. For the past year, Zoo Atlanta and the Zoo Atlanta Bird Team have been working hard to support native bird conservation by doing our part to mitigate the threats that we can.

It is estimated that around 1 billion birds a year die from window strikes in North America alone, and a large majority are migratory songbirds. Birds, unlike humans, are unable to recognize the reflection of trees and sky in a window for what it is: a reflection. Unfortunately, this results in birds flying full speed into these windows believing it to be a continuation of their surroundings rather than a hard, unyielding surface. While walking about the Zoo, take a look at many of the windows on our animal habitats or buildings such as the ARC and Scaly Slimy Spectacular. You may notice rows and rows of polka dot stickers in a pattern almost like wallpaper, but these polka dots are not just for decoration. Instead, these dots serve a very important purpose by reducing and preventing deadly bird window strikes. By placing these dots, we are breaking up that reflection while signaling to the birds “STOP” or “Go around!”, and in turn save many birds from an unfortunate fate.

Along with reducing bird strikes, the Bird Team is involved in several conservation efforts that may not seem as impactful, but in fact are some of the most important ways we can help our native species. Along with daily e-bird submissions, the Zoo Atlanta Bird Team participates in two large bird watching events each year: The Great backyard Bird Count and the Christmas Bird Count. On these days, hundreds of thousands of bird enthusiasts gather to listen and watch for birds, record their sightings, and send their records to e-bird. This data is then compiled and utilized by wildlife biologists to better track where birds are being found, as well as trends in their population numbers. This critical information helps conservationists identify population declines and potential threats to songbirds, allowing them to create effective strategies for helping those birds that are in danger.

I know the threats facing our native songbirds may seem too big for just you to tackle, but I promise that is not the case! Everyone can do their part to have a positive impact on native bird conservation, and it is easier than you think. Below are a few ways you can tap into your inner bird nerd and help out your native birds, day to day and in the future!

  • Place decals on large reflective surfaces to prevent bird strikes. There are even fun shaped decals available!
  • When landscaping, try planting native pants and shrubs. Especially pollinator friendly ones!
  • Go bird watching and submit what you see to e-bird. This data is very important!
  • Turn off unneeded lights at night so nighttime migrating birds won’t get confused or lose their way.
  • Participate in the Great Backyard Bird Count and Christmas Bird Count!

Katherine B.
Keeper II, Birds

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl