Native birds need native habitat
Historically, Ohio was covered by forests and prairies and found in these ecosystems, was an incredible array of wildlife. Once Ohio was settled, all that forest and prairie gave way to agricultural fields and cities. Since then, a lot of wildlife has been struggling to hold on, especially native birds who have not only battled habitat loss but competition between invasive birds from other countries.
The Toledo Zoo tries to provide quality habitat to these species of birds and encourage the recolonization of urban areas by establishing Ohio native prairies in abandoned lots around the city. The Zoo has several native prairies on grounds as well and we have seen a tremendous array of native birds use those prairies. Some bird species we have observed are kestrels, swallows, hawks, red wing black birds, screech owls, northern flickers, savanna sparrows, robins and much more.
Many of these birds consume insects and seeds that are provided by the native prairies the Toledo Zoo installs. In addition, many migratory species utilize the prairies during fall and spring migration as a stop over site while en route to their overwintering habitat. Without prairies and restored landscapes throughout urban areas, many birds would go without valuable resources, making migrating much more difficult then it already is.
An American robin investigates the bird bath at the Toledo Zoo’s broadway prairie.
A northern flicker, a type of woodpecker, visits one of the Toledo Zoo’s prairie
Another type of bird observed on the prairie is a savannah sparrow.
Native birds on Zoo grounds
Zoo staff and conservation biologists are evaluating birds on Zoo grounds, starting with earlier transects which established baseline data about the species and their abundance on grounds. This provides a good indication of which avian species use the Zoo as habitat, allowing Wild Toledo to monitor changes as habitat is restored and nest boxes are built.
Wild Toledo has set up four nest boxes on grounds to encourage native birds to utilize Zoo property for breeding. The targeted species are American kestrels, screech owls and northern flickers.
American kestrel boxes are established near Zoo prairie restoration sites because these birds prey on small mammals in tall grasses and native flowering areas. The Screech Owl prefers densely brushed habitat and conifers, so its boxes are located in the Zoo’s Formal Gardens. The Northern Flicker, meanwhile, depends on stands of trees, where it uses its beak to peck through wood to access insects and grubs. Boxes for this bird, then, are located in areas with lots of trees and places to forage.
Occasionally other native bird species nest in these boxes as well, with Aviary keepers checking for non-native birds such as European Sparrows. As you walk around the Zoo, look at the Wild Toledo restored habitats and keep an eye out for these native bird nesting boxes, especially by the Conservatory and Aquarium