Turtle Tuesday: Conservation Hero Edition

The Houston Zoo just returned from another Monday assisting federal sea turtle biologists from NOAA Galveston with their weekly beach patrols. Unfortunately, this has been a tough time for local sea turtle conservationists. Numerous deceased turtles have been washing ashore for the past several weeks, and more keep coming in. The numbers of turtles washing in are not typical. They have included mostly Kemp’s ridley sea turtles and loggerheads.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Photo courtesy of National Park Service.

 

Loggerhead sea turtle. Photo courtesy of the Georgia Aquarium.

In addition to this, there has yet to be a nesting Kemp’s ridley turtle on our upper Texas coast.  Nesting sea turtles usually arrive in our area by mid-April. With the month of May right on our tails, we’re all wondering-where are our nesting sea turtles?

Even though there aren’t any nesting sea turtles (yet…),  sea turtle biologists are keeping busy…VERY busy, and not with the easiest of tasks.

Meet Lyndsey Howell.

Lyndsey Howell-NOAA sea turtle biologist holding a Kemp’s ridley sea turtle. Photo courtesy of Crystal Beach Local News.

Lyndsey is a federal biologist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in Galveston. Lyndsey has been working with sea turtles for 8 years, and working at NOAA for 5 years. The word dedicated does not even begin to describe her work ethic when it comes to sea turtles. Lyndsey is responsible for holding the phone that you call if you see a dead, injured, or stranded turtle on our upper Texas coast beaches (1-866-TURTLE-5), as well as caring for wild and captive sea turtles at the Galveston sea turtle barn. She is also responsible for answering that phone-no matter what time or day it is, and responding to the turtle as soon as possible. Whether it is 2:00am on a Saturday or 11:00pm on a Tuesday-7 days a week, 24 hours a day, Lyndsey is there to help a sea turtle in need. A turtle could be called in from Surfside and the next one along the Texas/Louisiana border-in the same day! No matter the distance, the turtle will be picked up and taken care of. She will even take time out of an already long day, roll the windows down in her vehicle and answer questions about sea turtles from beach goers, say hello to ferry workers and tollbooth employees, all while maintaining a smile.

Lyndsey rescuing another car stuck in the sand during a beach survey-just another day on the job!

From April through July, sea turtles keep biologists in Texas very busy. This means long, long hours (our day yesterday lasted 14 hours), and not a lot of days off. The passion and drive that wildlife biologists/conservationists/researchers (call them what you may) have is unlike any other field. They work endless hours, often times without praise or breaks, and usually for very little pay. They do this job because they love it, and they know it is important.

Time in the field often requires a lot of caffeine. Image from Ecogreenbags.

Unfortunate events, like the loss of many sea turtles over the past few weeks can make it difficult to work in wildlife conservation. However, having the pleasure of knowing people like Lyndsey and other biologists and conservationists around the world reinforce the idea that environmental issues can be overcome.

If you would like to help with local sea turtle conservation efforts, please visit the Houston Zoo’s sea turtle page, or come to the zoo to see our rehabbed sea turtle in the Kipp Aquarium!

The Houston Zoo is Sending Animals Back to the Wild!

The Houston Zoo cares deeply for Texas wildlife.   We are committed to ensuring the recovery and protection of local species and habitats.  We take great pride in our efforts to rehabilitate/assist wild animals and reintroduce zoo-born animals to the wild.   This blog series will keep you up-to-date on our 3 local recovery projects:

The Attwater’s prairie chicken is the rarest native Texas bird. It is estimated that less than 100 of these birds are left in the wild.   The Houston Zoo manages the captive breeding programs for the Attwater’s prairie chicken.  We have breeding facilities both behind the scenes at the Zoo and at NASA’s Johnson Space Center.  When the birds hatch and grow large enough, they are slowly introduced and then released into the wild, where they will support the already existing populations.

There are 5 species of sea turtles inhabiting the Gulf of Mexico, all of which are considered to be either threatened or endangered. They include the Kemp’s ridley, Green, Leatherback, Atlantic hawksbill, and Loggerhead sea turtles. Some of the threats these sea turtles face in the Gulf are drowning in shrimp nets, getting caught in hook and line, vehicle traffic, development of beaches, ocean and light pollution.  The Houston Zoo has treated over 100 sea turtles since 2010 in our vet clinic. The turtles are then brought to the sea turtle barn in Galveston to prepare for reintroduction. You may also catch a glimpse of a recovering sea turtle at the Zoo in the Kipp Aquarium.

The Houston Toad disappeared from Houston in the 1960s following extensive drought and urban expansion.  Today, less than 100 of this Texas amphibian resides in Bastrop, Austin, and Colorado Counties.

Th Houston toad program began in 2007 when the only known egg strands laid by Houston toads that year were delivered to the Zoo for “head starting” – a way to start the toad’s life in captivity and release them when they reach a certain maturity. Since then, we have been building a population at the Zoo to be sure that the toads will not go extinct, as well as releasing toads into the wild to build the population there. So far, we have released more than 20,000 toads! We also monitor and survey existing populations of toads in the wild.

 Stay tuned this spring as we update you on these local efforts to put species back into their homes in the Texas wild!

 

A penny saved is a penny earned to save lions!

If you’ve ever had any doubts about the old saying that a penny saved is a penny earned, spend just a few minutes with Lamar Consolidated ISD kindergarten teacher Sharon Baldwin.  The Velasquez Elementary school teacher and her kindergarten class know all about the power of spare change.

On Wednesday, April 17 Ms. Baldwin and her dedicated kindergarten students visited the Houston Zoo to present a check for $1,000 dollars to the Houston Zoo’s Conservation Department, the school’s latest contribution to Cash for Cats, a big cat conservation project. 

 “This year, Velazquez Elementary School students were asked to bring in spare change over a two week period,” said Baldwin.  “My kindergarten class raised the most for this year’s Cash for Cats project and was invited by the Zoo to enjoy a VIP Lion Fun Day celebration,” she added.

 

 

 

The winning Velasquez Elementary School kindergarten students’ got to experience Lion Fun Day crafts and games modeled after Lion Fun Day activities for children in Mozambique.

 

 

 

The kids enjoyed participating in a ‘mango-in-a-spoon’(in Houston we had to use a Cutie orange) race.   The kids in Mozambique were overjoyed with the gift of the spoon for completing the race.  The kids in Houston had no interest in another spoon, but enjoyed the other prizes we provided.

 

 

 

 

The kids in both countries loved making and keeping the beaded necklaces they created!

 

 

 

 

 

 

  

 

And, the kids from both countries love to be creative and get messy finger painting  murals!

The Childern in Mozambique occational glimse lions in the wild, but the Velasquez Elementary School kindergarten students’ got a special experience that is not avaiable to the childern in Mozambique.   They got to gather at the Zoo’s Lion Training Window for a fun and educational Meet the Keeper Talk with lion keepers and a ‘meet and greet’ with the Zoo’s 4 African lions.

Created by Velazquez Elementary School music teacher Donna Fletcher, Cash for Cats has raised $6,000 dollars for the conservation of wild cats. Over the last two years, proceeds from the fund raiser have benefited the Niassa Lion Project. 

The Niassa Lion Project serves to secure and conserve lions and other large carnivores in the Niassa National Reserve in northern Mozambique by promoting the coexistence between carnivores and people and directly mitigating threats.  For more information about the Houston Zoo’s Lion Conservation Campaign and how you can help save lions in the wild, visit the Zoo online at https://www.houstonzoo.org/lionssp/.

By Brian Hill, Houston Zoo’s Director of Public Affairs

How Do You Convince a Pygmy Marmoset to Have Babies?

Pygmy marmosets. Those cute little monkeys found in South American rainforests. The tiniest on the planet. Wouldn’t it be just adorable if they had babies? Why yes, it would…but it’s a tricky business.

Pygmy marmosets: yep, they’re adorable.

As you may have read in recent blogs, pygmy marmosets have some unique characteristics, including what they eat and the way they parent. You may have also learned that pygmy marmosets, as well as 300 other species of animals, have a special plan for breeding in zoos to make sure they don’t breed with others in their family tree and that there is enough space for them.

Now let’s take that a step further: what is the Houston Zoo doing to breed them responsibly so we make sure that we’ve got enough marmosets in zoos, especially if the wild population takes a turn for the worse? Our pygmy marmosets happen to be some of the most successful at having babies of any zoo, so let’s take a look at what we think we’re doing right.

It all goes back to April 2006. Pygmy marmoset pair Per and Mia were both 4 years old and new to the Zoo, so before putting them out to roam with other animals in our Natural Encounters rainforest exhibit, we figured they needed some quiet time to get to know each other. And get to know each other they did…in a few short months, sure enough, twins arrived. We suspected that it was because they were kept in a quiet, smaller area, but at this point we weren’t quite sure.

Then came Bobby and Tilly. This pair was introduced when they were both 4 years old, which seems to be prime time for marmosets to get a mate. They turned out to be the most successful family the Zoo has ever had! They had a total of 8 offspring that made it to maturity.

Bobby, Tilly, and one of their offspring

The secret? We think it’s the same thing, which we called the “closet method” – let them get to know each other in a small, quiet space with no interruptions, and then they have babies. Once they have a couple births, we can introduce them to other animals and let them all frolic together in our rainforest exhibit.  This makes sense, because pygmy marmoset families don’t move around much in the wild – they have a small range where they live and they don’t venture out much beyond it.

To test the “closet method” theory, we’re working with the SSP coordinator to reach out to other accredited zoos and seeing how successful they have been in breeding marmosets, and also finding out basic information about how their marmosets live, what they do for enrichment and training, and even what they eat. If we understand how people are housing and managing them, and also what success in breeding they’ve had, we hope to establish a pattern and then help zoos around the country become successful with their marmosets.

So where are our marmosets? Right now, they’re all behind the scenes so they can relax and get to know each other. You never know when they’ll be ready to be in the rainforest, though, so keep an eye out when you visit.

Thanks to Abby Varela, Senior Keeper at the Houston Zoo, for the fantastic information and photos!

Species Survival Plans: Helping Protect Animals in Zoos and in the Wild

In zoos, we have many animals that are endangered or threatened in the wild, and part of our job is to make sure we help protect them. One way we do this is through Species Survival Plans (SSPs). These plans are specially created for over 300 species of animals to make sure we take care of the population we have in zoos responsibly and work to protect their counterparts in the wild.

These plans are managed by an organization called the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. In order to be a member of this organization, a zoo or aquarium has to go through a rigorous accreditation process to be sure they are providing a safe, healthy environment for animals, as well as caring for them properly, among many other standards. The Houston Zoo is proudly accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

One way we do this is to be sure we have a large enough number of animals in zoos that are as genetically diverse as possible (for example, making sure animals that breed are not related). This is especially important, because if an animal is on the brink of extinction in the wild, zoos will have animals with diverse enough genes to breed with the wild animals and help bring the wild population back. An example of a success story was the reintroduction of the Arabian Oryx, which was declared as extinct in the wild in 1972. Because of the Species Survival Plan, there are now more than 1,450 Arabian Oryx worldwide.

Arabian Oryx

Let’s take the adorable pygmy marmoset, which we learned about in a recent blog, as an example of what an SSP does. First, experts from the zoo world figure out how many marmosets are living in zoos that can be a part of the Species Survival Plan. Then, they figure out if they want that population size to stay steady or to grow. In the case of pygmy marmosets, we want their population to grow. Then, we figure out the marmoset family tree…who’s related to who, and how. Then, we make a plan to keep introducing animals with different sets of genes so they will not breed with marmosets in their same family.

So how do we do all this, especially if many of the pygmy marmosets at the Houston Zoo are related (mom, dad, brothers, sisters, aunts, and uncles)? We move animals from one zoo to another. So if a male marmoset at another zoo isn’t related to our female, and the SSP thinks they would be a good breeding pair, we move one or the other so they can be together, breed, and (hopefully) have adorable, tiny, pygmy marmoset babies.

Pygmy Marmoset

But while we’re learning more about breeding, it’s not always an exact science…especially with animals like pygmy marmosets. Stay tuned for another blog about them, where you’ll learn why we’re one of the most successful zoos at breeding these animals, and what we think helps them have success.

Thanks to Abby Varela, Senior Keeper at the Houston Zoo, for the great information and photos!

So You Want to Work at a Zoo…..

We are often asked (very often) how to get a job as an animal keeper working at the Houston Zoo. Questions come in ranging from “How do I start working with animals?” to “Can I come pet the monkeys?”  The reality about working at a zoo is that it requires a mindset not found in other careers. We’ve assembled a few pointers for those looking, but not sure how to break into this amazing and rewarding field.

The employees of our Zoo are devoted professionals, regularly spending more time with the animals than their own families.

Let’s do some math here: We’ll posit that a “normal” business can expect their operating hours to be Monday through Friday, 9am – 5pm, requiring approximately 40 hours/week (don’t forget the 1hr lunch break).  The Houston Zoo is open 7 days a week, 9am – 7pm, 364 days a year. Oh yeah, be sure to factor in our night events, special parties, and occasional offsite visits.  So we open at 9am. Not too shabby right? Think our keepers get here the same time as our guests? Ha! Depending on the animal section, our keepers arrive anywhere from 5:00am – 7:00am to begin their day.

Ok, even though we haven’t directly said it, tip #1 for working at a zoo is to be prepared to work long hours. We pride ourselves on outstanding animal care, and that takes time…… a lot of time.

Tip #2 for landing a job as an animal keeper may be obvious: Get an education. Beth Schaefer, Curator of Primates and Carnivores at the Houston Zoo notes , “A college degree is becoming more and more important in the zoo field.  Our primate staff has lots of different degrees such as  biology, zoology, conservation biology, wildlife management, anthropology, and even psychology .” If you don’t have a dedicated animal degree, that’s ok. Beth also recommends volunteering to supplement your education. “Start volunteering at a local zoo as soon as you are able and look for internship opportunities. This way, you can prove that you show up when you are scheduled and willing to take on any task, regardless of how physically tiring it may be or what the weather is.”

Tip #3 is crappy: Embrace the poop. Animals poop, get over it. It’s time to get comfortable shoveling, scooping, grabbing, scrubbing, picking, and washing away poop. This will be part of YOUR job if you work as any animal keeper regardless of your education, experience, or age.

Tip #4 involves being flexible. Just because you’ve wanted to work with primates your entire life, doesn’t make you any more qualified to care for them. Beth offers more wisdom here, “Being willing to move around the country makes you a better candidate. Also, don’t expect to start working with your “dream animal”.  Take whatever job is open, work hard, be open-minded and learn lots.  A good reputation is everything in this small, close-knit field. “

With that said, we whole-heartedly wish you the best of luck in your search!

Pygmy Marmosets: Small but Mighty Monkeys!

If you’ve never seen a pygmy marmoset, just try to imagine the tiniest, most adorable, most delicate monkey you can think of – and you’re just about there. These tiny animals are literally the smallest monkeys in the world (about as heavy as a small pear), and they live in rainforests in parts of northern South America like Ecuador, Brazil, Bolivia, Columbia, and Peru.

In the wild, pygmy marmosets dwell in trees and scurry up and down tree trunks and across branches and vines. They have nails resembling claws that help them hang onto trees while they use their teeth to munch through branches to access their favorite meal, which is tree sap (they also eat insects). When they have babies, they usually give birth to non-identical twins. They live in groups, usually ranging from 2-9 marmosets each: this includes a monogamous pair with offspring from the last 4 litters.

A unique feature of pygmy marmosets is called “alloparenting.” Alloparenting is when individuals that are not the parent help care for offspring (for example, siblings). Mom typically carries the babies for the first couple of days of their lives, then hands them off to dad most of the time, and often you will see brothers and sisters carrying the little guys around and caring for them. While alloparenting is pretty common among primates, marmosets and tamarins are unusual in that the males are involved in the care of infants – this isn’t the case among other primates. Pygmy marmosets are sometimes compared to gorillas in how they parent, keeping an incredibly watchful eye and letting the family eat before dad gets to eat. Sound familiar?

At the Houston Zoo, you can sometimes find pygmy marmosets in our Natural Encounters building. They live in the rainforest area with a host of other incredible animals, including golden lion tamarins, and even a sloth. Sometimes, though, you can’t see them, and for good reason – they need peace and quiet to breed and have babies, so we have a comfy off-exhibit area for them to stay while that process is happening.

How do we and other accredited zoos decide what animals should breed? It’s a highly calculated choice that is made to ensure both the survival of a species and that there’s enough room in zoos to house pygmy marmosets and many other kinds of animals. It’s called a Species Survival Plan (SSP). More on that coming soon in a future blog! In the past couple of years, the Houston Zoo has been one of the most successful zoo at breeding pygmy marmosets – it’s a tough thing to do. We’ll also tell you what we learned about breeding marmosets at our zoo and what we’re learning as we go.

Thanks to Abby Varela, Senior Keeper at the Houston Zoo, and the National Primate Research Center for the fantastic pygmy marmoset information!

Carolyn Jess Talks Earth Day & Arbor Day

We have invited Carolyn Jess back to help us out as guest blogger in 2013 with a focus on native wildlife. Jess is a 12 year old student who has agreed to be our special guest blogger about wildlife conservation. We first met Carolyn in October 2011 when she came out to the Zoo to meet our special guest Jack Hannah. If you would like to contact Carolyn or have comments, you may send them to conservation@houstonzoo.org.

Happy Earth and Arbor Day!  As you think of ideas to help our environment and conserve resources, here is another way to help that you may not have thought of:  Action for Apes Challenge.  Several Houston Area schools and organizations are taking part in this great service learning program by encouraging their friends and family to recycle used cell phones.  It’s important to recycle your used cell phones because they contain a mineral called coltan.  Coltan is destructively mined in the African Congo where the chimpanzees and gorilla habitats are.  If we can recycle used cell phones, cameras, and laptop computers, less of the mineral is needed from this important wildlife area.  More coltan recycled means less mining of coltan in the Congo.

You can also help by keeping your cell phone for as long as possible or even buying a refurbished phone.  If you would like to recycle your old cell phones, the Houston Zoo or area schools competing in the challenge will take them.  The school that has the most cell phones collected wins a great prize!  It is a hand painted picture by the Houston Zoo’s chimps.  Really though, everyone comes out a winner.  When we can make people aware of the need to recycle, the real challenge has been met.  You can make a difference to the chimps and gorillas in the Congo.  Recycle your old phones today.

PalmOilProblems

If you work in the world of wildlife (or even if you don’t), you are constantly hit with messages about the problems facing wildlife in every corner of the world. Sometimes, it’s hard to take it all in. If you feel this way-you are not alone.

The truth is, nobody is perfect (including me!). Although I work in the world of wildlife conservation educating others about how they can help save wildlife and habitats, I too fall in with bad habits. The use of palm oil is one of those things that is very tricky for me, and a lot of us, to avoid. Let me tell you a little about my PalmOilProblems.

Palm oil plantation in Malaysia. Photo by Jeremy Hance.

The Palm Oil 411: Palm oil is a product that is used in every day items like soap, shampoo, snacks, etc. Many palm oil plantations take over homes for animals like orangutans. Some companies work to protect wildlife while farming palm oil, others do not. The ones who set aside space and resources for wildlife we refer to as “sustainable”.

Palm oil fruit. Photo courtesy of Rhett Butler and Mongabay.

Back to my PalmOilProblems. The other day I was sitting at my desk, brainstorming ways to message to the public about how to avoid buying products with palm oil. One of the suggestions provided was to read the labels of ALL your products (beauty, food, etc.) to see what is inside. So, I decided to test myself. I keep a bottle of water-less hand wash and lotion at my desk (for the few times the humidity drops below 90% in Houston) and I had never actually looked at the ingredients in those items. I typically buy all natural/organic items when I can (that’s better, right?) so I laughed at the fact that these items could even contain palm oil-of course they wouldn’t!!! I am a wildlife conservationist!

First up-water-less hand wash. Ingredients include: ethyl alcohol (great, what’s next?), I peel open the secret cover to see more ingredients-water (no problem), and then…glycerin and in parentheses “naturally occurring palm oil”. WHAT!? What does that even mean? It says “naturally occurring”-so, is that okay? I did a bit of research, and I still can’t tell whether this is bad for orangutans or not. Looks like glycerin comes from either coconut or palm oil. I’m not sure if it’s sustainable or not, so I give myself an “F” for the water-less hand wash.

Houston Zoo orangutan, Aurora. Orangutans are losing their homes to palm oil plantations.

Up next-hand lotion. Ingredients include: dimethicone (what’s that and why am I putting it on my hands??), allantoin, oat, kernel flour, isopropul palmitate, sodium chloride, ….wait, what was that “palmitate” one?!? It sounds like palm oil, but it doesn’t actually say “palm” and “oil”. Well, thanks to Google, one quick search and I find out this thickening agent is from palm oil. Man, things are getting tricky. With even more research, I stumble upon lists and lists of ingredients that are actually palm oil, but have fancy names! Geez! How are we supposed to protect wildlife when it is just so confusing? I give myself another “F” and fail both tests. This sure doesn’t empower me to want to save wildlife, so it probably won’t work for you either. I better think of ways to get this message across in a more positive light!

So, instead of telling you to do a whole bunch of stuff you don’t want to do, avoid products, do lots of research (blah, blah, blah),  I’ll help you to save orangutans and other wildlife by telling you all about the awesome organizations that use no palm oil, or use the sustainable stuff. And, I’ll challenge you to eat healthier and live healthier by doing some of these things and I promise you’ll have less PalmOilProblems.

Palm oil fruit. Photo by Intan Shafinaz.

1. Buy products with less than 10 ingredients. Yeah, I said it…10 TOTAL ingredients. Sounds like a Sunday grocery store challenge to me!

2. Buy/use/eat products that contain ingredients you can actually pronounce! Mmmhmmm..your heart will thank you (so will orangutans).

3. Support companies that are doing things right! While I write this blog, I’m enjoying some crunchy unsalted peanut butter thanks to Trader Joe’s. Ingredients you ask? DRY ROASTED PEANUTS! Who knew? How simple! Thanks Joe the Trader!

Need to buy some makeup or beauty products? Avon is part of the sustainable palm oil companies.

Maybe you’re in the mood for some junk food after all this talk about healthy stuff? Thanks McDonalds and PepsiCo for jumping on board the sustainable palm oil train! I hope other companies like yours will join as well!

Want to find out about other companies helping to save wildlife and people through sustainable palm oil use? Visit: http://www.rspo.org/.

Want to support orangutan conservation through the Houston Zoo? Visit us! (Part of your ticket purchase goes back to helping save animals in the wild). Or, check out our orangutan donation page, here from the comfort of your own couch.

Thank you for taking small actions and making changes to help save wildlife around the globe. I hope these solutions will help alleviate some of your PalmOilProblems…they sure did for me!

Let’s make sure animals like orangutans (among many others) have a home for the future!

Our 24 Hour Adventure: The Great Texas Birding Classic

At 11:45 in the evening Saturday night, five Houston Zoo bird keepers and one interactive marketing guru met in the zoo’s employee parking lot and began packing a minivan full of food, pillows, cameras, binoculars, bug spray and bird identification guides. While playing car storage Tetris, everyone simultaneously snapped their heads up to look into the sky, as the comical calls of wild Black-bellied Whistling Ducks flying into our Duck Lake exhibit rang out.  I checked my phone; it was three minutes after midnight. Our start time had silently crept by as we worried over how many bottles of water we could fit in the cooler.

“Black-bellied’s at twelve oh three! It counts!”

With that, team Jiminy Frigates started a whirlwind 24 hour Great Texas Birding Classic competition-a quest to identify by sight or sound as many different bird species as possible from midnight to midnight. Our team had never been bird watching as a group before, and no members had ever participated in competitive birding.  After studying the totals of teams from previous years, we set our goals at a respectable number, 150 species. Twenty four hours and 387 miles of driving later, the final total was 178 species. How’s that for coming out of the gate strong?

We began our birding odyssey on Houston Zoo grounds and visited 13 different sites, drove within throwing distance of Louisiana, rode a ferry, and found a new bird in a Beaumont Church’s Chicken. We saw snakes, wildflowers, alligators, frogs, dolphins, lizards, one very sleepy raccoon, not to mention a few birds.

On average, we saw 8 new species of bird every hour, or every 2 miles traveled. Armed with iPhones, we tweeted, uploaded photos, posted blogs, updated Facebook statuses, and may have even involved Tumblr at some point. We were all so happy to see Houston Zoo supporters following along on our adventure, offering advice and encouragement! When you skip a night of sleep, have soggy muddy feet, a mosquito bite on your right eyelid, and only fast food in your stomach, that kind of support really helps.

Many hours of sleep and one scalding shower later, I realize that bird watching isn’t just about staring at some eagles or sparrows through binoculars; it’s about being outdoors and everything else that entails. As soon as you begin to look around you for birds, you notice everything else you’ve been missing; the armadillo by the pond, the beautiful oak tree in your yard, the butterflies flitting around and those flowers everyone says you’re supposed to stop and smell.

Bird watching is something you can do alone, with children, your mother, with a group of friends, or on a romantic date. No matter what, it’s always a fun adventure, and you’ll see something that will amaze you.  As another Earth Day comes and goes, we encourage you to get out and look for birds. You’ll find everything else on the way.

  •  Black-bellied Whistling-Duck
  •  Fulvous Whistling-Duck
  •  Wood Duck
  •  Mottled Duck
  •  Blue-winged Teal
  •  Northern Shoveler
  •  Northern Pintail
  •  Green-winged Teal
  •  Canvasback
  •  Redhead
  •  Pied-billed Grebe
  •  Neotropic Cormorant
  •  Double-crested Cormorant
  •  American White Pelican
  •  Brown Pelican
  •  American Bittern
  •  Great Blue Heron
  •  Great Egret
  •  Snowy Egret
  •  Little Blue Heron
  •  Tricolored Heron
  •  Reddish Egret
  •  Cattle Egret
  •  Green Heron
  •  Black-crowned Night-Heron
  •  Yellow-crowned Night-Heron
  •  White Ibis
  •  Glossy Ibis
  •  White-faced Ibis
  •  Roseate Spoonbill
  •  Black Vulture
  •  Turkey Vulture
  •  Osprey
  • Mississippi Kite
  • Notherthern Harrier
  •  Swainson’s Hawk
  •  Red-tailed Hawk
  •  Clapper Rail
  •  Purple Gallinule
  •  Common Gallinule
  •  American Coot
  •  Black-bellied Plover
  •  American Golden-Plover
  •  Snowy Plover
  •  Wilson’s Plover
  •  Semipalmated Plover
  •  Killdeer
  •  American Oystercatcher
  •  Black-necked Stilt
  •  American Avocet
  •  Solitary Sandpiper
  •  Greater Yellowlegs
  •  Willet
  •  Lesser Yellowlegs
  •  Whimbrel
  •  Long-billed Curlew
  •  Marbled Godwit
  •  Ruddy Turnstone
  •  Sanderling
  •  Western Sandpiper
  •  Baird’s Sandpiper
  •  Dunlin
  •  Stilt Sandpiper
  •  Ruff
  •  Short-billed Dowitcher
  •  Long-billed Dowitcher
  •  Wilson’s Phalarope
  •  Bonaparte’s Gull
  •  Laughing Gull
  •  Ring-billed Gull
  •  Herring Gull
  •  Least Tern
  •  Gull-billed Tern
  •  Caspian Tern
  •  Black Tern
  •  Common Tern
  •  Forster’s Tern
  •  Royal Tern
  •  Sandwich Tern
  •  Black Skimmer
  •  Rock Pigeon
  •  Eurasian Collared-Dove
  •  White-winged Dove
  •  Mourning Dove
  •  Inca Dove
  •  Yellow-billed Cuckoo
  •  Black-billed Cuckoo
  •  Great Horned Owl
  •  Barred Owl
  •  Common Nighthawk
  •  Chimney Swift
  •  Ruby-throated Hummingbird
  •  Belted Kingfisher
  •  Red-headed Woodpecker
  •  Golden-fronted Woodpecker
  •  Red-bellied Woodpecker
  •  Downy Woodpecker
  •  Northern Flicker
  •  Peregrine Falcon
  •  Monk Parakeet
  •  Eastern Wood-Pewee
  •  Acadian Flycatcher
  •  Eastern Phoebe
  •  Eastern Kingbird
  •  Scissor-tailed Flycatcher
  •  Loggerhead Shrike
  •  White-eyed Vireo
  •  Blue-headed Vireo
  •  Warbling Vireo
  •  Red-eyed Vireo
  •  Blue Jay
  •  American Crow
  •  Fish Crow
  •  Northern Rough-winged Swallow
  •  Purple Martin
  •  Tree Swallow
  •  Barn Swallow
  •  Cliff Swallow
  •  Carolina Chickadee
  •  Tufted Titmouse
  •  Red-breasted Nuthatch
  •  Sedge Wren
  •  Marsh Wren
  •  Carolina Wren
  •  Blue-gray Gnatcatcher
  •  Ruby-crowned Kinglet
  •  Swainson’s Thrush
  •  Wood Thrush
  •  American Robin
  •  Gray Catbird
  •  Northern Mockingbird
  •  Brown Thrasher
  •  European Starling
  •  Worm-eating Warbler
  •  Louisiana Waterthrush
  •  Northern Waterthrush
  •  Black-and-white Warbler
  •  Prothonotary Warbler
  •  Swainson’s Warbler
  •  Tennessee Warbler
  •  Orange-crowned Warbler
  •  Kentucky Warbler
  •  Common Yellowthroat
  •  Hooded Warbler
  •  American Redstart
  •  Northern Parula
  •  Blackburnian Warbler
  •  Yellow Warbler
  •  Blackpoll Warbler
  •  Palm Warbler
  •  Yellow-rumped Warbler
  •  Yellow-throated Warbler
  •  Black-throated Green Warbler
  •  Wilson’s Warbler
  •  Savannah Sparrow
  •  Seaside Sparrow
  •  Swamp Sparrow
  •  White-throated Sparrow
  •  White-crowned Sparrow
  •  Summer Tanager
  •  Scarlet Tanager
  •  Western Tanager
  • Northern Cardinal
  •  Rose-breasted Grosbeak
  •  Indigo Bunting
  •  Painted Bunting
  •  Red-winged Blackbird
  •  Eastern Meadowlark
  •  Brewer’s Blackbird
  •  Common Grackle
  •  Boat-tailed Grackle
  •  Great-tailed Grackle
  •  Brown-headed Cowbird
  •  Orchard Oriole
  •  Baltimore Oriole
  •  American Goldfinch
  •  House Sparrow
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