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Zoos and Aquariums participate in native bird species conservation.

Loggerhead Shrike

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) has provided this list of how member zoos and aquariums are involved in North American songbird conservation:  Here are a few examples:

Saint Louis Zoo became a member of the St. Louis Cats and Birds Coalition. It is working with St. Louis Audubon on an education campaign to keep cats indoors.

Akron Zoo is on the steering committee of Lights Out Cleveland, which promotes Lights Out for several Ohio metropolitan areas.

Columbus Zoo worked with the NABCI’s Social Science coordinator, Ashley Gramza, to design a visitor survey that will help the zoo promote the new NABCI bird conservation priorities in a way that will resonate with the visitors.

Brevard Zoo constructed a “catio,” an enclosure for pet cats that gives them access to the outdoors while preventing them from accessing wild birds. It’s a popular and educational exhibit.

Toronto Zoo, Columbus Zoo, The Wilds, Riverbanks Zoo, and Zoo Miami installed Motus towers to track migratory behavior. Motus towers are stationary receivers that detect signals from radiotransmitters attached to migratory birds, bats, and even insects. They joined the Bird Studies Canada international Motus network and helped expand it across flyways. Other zoos are in the process of participating.

Disney’s Animal Kingdom worked with Apple to develop a behavior monitoring system for nesting Purple Martins.

AZA zoos and aquariums offer specialized expertise and skills to aid in the recovery of threatened and endangered songbird populations. For example, AZA zoos play a key role in breeding, studying, genetically managing, and reintroducing songbirds such as Loggerhead Shrike and Florida Grasshopper Sparrow. Some AZA zoos are participating in a North American songbird initiative led by the Conservation Centers for Species Survival, which seeks to grow connectivity between zoo and field populations of songbirds through a One Plan Approach.

North American songbirds have been also highlighted in research, some of which is directly applicable to wild bird conservation. For example, the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Wood Thrush colony helped researchers understand the importance of food availability on the non-breeding grounds to breeding success. By establishing native songbird populations in managed care and working to understand the needs of migratory birds, AZA zoos and aquariums are able to offer assistance to populations in decline. These populations can assist avian researchers by providing models for rare species, understanding avian health, life history, and testing potential field methods.

About the Author

Sam Crowe

Sam is the founder of He has been birding for over 30 years and has a world list of over 2000 species. He has served as treasurer of the Texas Ornithological Society, Sanctuary Chair of Dallas Audubon, Editor of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology's "All About Birds" web site and as a contributing editor for Birding Business magazine. Many of his photographs and videos can be found on the site.

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