Last week, Derek and I went to one of the largest zoos in the Midwest: The Milwaukee County Zoo. The Milwaukee County Zoo has a wide range of animals from all across the globe, including a full aviary. On this day, in addition to the animals intended to be at the zoo, we were also focused on the birds that live in the more natural places in the zoo. These birds make their home in the wooded and open spaces between enclosures.
As we walked into the building that serves as a threshold between the parking lot and the zoo, we heard our first bird of the day and one that is extremely common around humans: The House Sparrow. House Sparrows live in almost every corner of the zoo, feeding on scraps of food left behind by both people and animals. In the same area we also heard a House Finch and saw a Common Grackle.
Moving toward the aviary, there was a flock of Flamingoes near a small pond. This pond is a fascinating part of the zoo because it contains both native and non native species. Flamingoes use the area to feed along with many Koi and native fish that call the pond home. In addition to these animals, there are also wild birds that make an appearance from time to time.
While looking at the Flamingoes I noticed a bird come in for a landing near the water’s edge. It was a Green Heron! This was the first wild bird we’d seen so far that is not known for living near people. Across the path from where the Green Heron was, a Ruby-throated Hummingbird was visiting a nectar feeder, and in a tree overhead, a Red-bellied Woodpecker scanned the branches for a potential meal.
Walking the paths around the various buildings and exhibits takes zoo goers past a lot of deciduous forest. These areas were very good for native bird species. Several American Robins could be seen moving around in the underbrush and occasionally perching up in the trees. Other birds that we found in these areas were Red-eyed Vireos, Blue-gray Gnatcatchers, and Eastern Wood Peewees. Since all three of these species have a habit of hanging out in the thick, leafy tree tops, we couldn’t get eyes on them nut heard their distinctive calls.
The last spot that proved to be good for wild birds was near Lake Evinrude close to the North American Animal enclosures. Hear, a small lake holds various native fish species, and water birds. On this day, we were able to find a Herring Gull, a Killdeer, several Ring-billed Gulls, and numerous Mallards. Around the corner there were bird feeders and a short board walk leading through the woods to the edge of the lake. Unfortunately, there were not any birds visiting the feeders.
Overall, I was able to tally 20 species of wild birds at the Milwaukee County Zoo .In my opinion, the best finds were Green Heron, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, Eastern Wood Peewee, and Red-eyed Vireo. It was fun to be able to see native birds while also exploring the various other animal species at the zoo. It would be interesting to go bird the zoo again during peak migration to see how high of a total I could get.