Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Exploring the World of Birds at the Bronx Zoo

There aren't many ways to see a Congo Peacock, Maleo, and Helmeted Currasow in an afternoon. These birds live on different continents so it would be near impossible to get close with current technology, even if they were easy to find in the wild. They are not.

Maleo: the Bronx Zoo is reportedly the only place in the world where this
bird exists outside of the Sula Islands of Indonesia
Most birders don't seem to care for looking at birds in zoos. I find it a complement to the study of birds in the wild and birds in published material. It can be helpful to study the three-dimensional shapes and sizes of a wide variety of birds, even unfamiliar families, without the serious effort and expense of trekking around the globe.

Yes, there is a House Sparrow on the pathway there.

I don't care for birds in tiny cages, and I would not go to a zoo that did not provide its animals with optimal care and living conditions. I believe the Bronx Zoo does a good job of this, and it focuses on conversation of habitats and species worldwide.

Go ahead, I challenge you, find the Boat-billed Heron.

In fact, viewing birds at the Bronx Zoo, and specifically at the World of Birds, adds a feel of birding to it anyway. You will not usually walk up to an exhibit and automatically see every bird or birds (most exhibits contain multiple species). Some species are obvious, but others are difficult to find in the exhibit. I expect that most people do not see the Congo Peacock while passing through the exhibits, but with luck and an eye of what to look for, it can be found. Thus, every walk through produces a different experience, like birding, where any given day is a different set of views, observations, and experiences.

Congo Peacock, tough to see even in captivity!

The Bronx Zoo's World of Birds has a stellar collection, too. I count at least 37 families of birds in World of Birds alone, not counting any of the other collections, such as the Wetland and Aquatic Birds, Birds of Prey, or birds throughout the grounds. That's about 16% (38/234) of the world's birds families represented. The order of Passerines has at least 10 families represented, although that is low compared to the overall 123-ish families of Passerines. Among the species in the collection that stand out to me are Egyptian Plover, Maleo, Great Argus, Grey-winged Trumpeter, Elegant Crested Tinamou, two species of birds of paradise, Victoria Crowned Pigeon, two species of currasow, three species of turaco, Plate-billed Mountain-toucan, Andean Cock-of-the-rock, Hyacinth Macaw, Kea, Congo Peacock, White-naped Crane, and Rhea. Woah.

Nicobar Pigeon (left) and Tawny Frogmouth (center)

The opening exhibit features two species of bee-eaters; if you show up at 3PM, you can watch the bee-eaters fly out from their perches and snag crickets mid-air!

Nestled among tall tulip, oak, and sweet gum trees, the World of Birds is within a short sparrow's-flight of the Bronx River. Wild birds can be found just outside the exhibit, including Gray Catbirds, Northern Cardinals, Baltimore Orioles, and others. Wood ducks can be found in the river.

If you can't get out to your local patch of habitat or want to expand your knowledge of birds worldwide, then the Bronx Zoo is a great place to look for and watch birds!

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