Zoos & Aquariums Take Action to Conserve Vulnerable Bird Species


For those of you who frequently read our blogs, you are probably aware of some of the amazing ex situ conservation projects the Chicago Zoological Society is a part of involving species such as the Guam kingfisher. The effort to conserve vulnerable bird species is an action many zoos and aquariums take on.

Not only do zoos work to protect vulnerable species of birds in the wild but we also strive to provide excellent care for the birds which call our zoos home. Currently, at CZS we have about 70 different species of birds, two of which, guinea fowl and peafowl, you may be used to seeing roaming the zoo grounds freely. In effort to continuously provide outstanding care for our animals, we have conducted research to examine how providing mate choice to two species of birds, red-capped cardinals and blue-grey tanagers, impacts their reproductive success and, in turn, their welfare. Additionally, our in-house animal nutritionist has been working with the bird department to examine how the diet of passerines (perching birds which make up the order, Passeriformes) can increase reproductive success and improve their welfare.

In order to learn more about zoo bird behavior in relation to welfare and to continue to provide our birds with the best possible care, I did a deep dive into past scientific literature to see what other zoo scientists have done to improve bird welfare. Much of the research focused on a few main families of birds including Spheniscidae (penguins), Phoenicopteridae (flamingos), Psittacidae (true parrots), Corvidae (crows, ravens, magpies, etc.), and Bucerotidae (hornbills). Of those studies, many focused on how the zoo environment impacted the bird’s behavior, investigating things like visitor presence, environmental enrichment, and social grouping/pairs.

Although zoos and aquariums may not be producing as much scientific literature on the welfare of their bird populations, each animal is still provided with optimal care to ensure they have the best possible welfare and are able to thrive in their zoo environment. Next time you visit the zoo, check out our birding checklist and enjoy your new-found appreciation for our feathered friends!

- Jocelyn Woods, Behavioral Research Assistant

Posted: 7/13/2020 1:17:35 PM by Sean Keeley

CZS & Brookfield Zoo

Since the opening of Brookfield Zoo in 1934, the Chicago Zoological Society has had an international reputation for taking a cutting-edge role in animal care and conservation of the natural world. Learn more about the animals, people, and research that make up CZS here at our blog.


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