How ZooAmerica Increases Survival of Pennsylvania Birds
Two Pennsylvania birds, American Kestrels and Barn Owls, are experiencing declining populations. These birds are very beneficial to farmers as natural rodent control. ZooAmerica Staff and Milton Hershey School students have been placing 18 nest boxes to assist the birds in buidling the populations of their species.
ZooAmerica North American Wildlife Park is one of only seven Pennsylvania zoos who are members of the prestigious Association of Zoos & Aquariums (AZA). One of the missions of the AZA is to advance conservation and care of species and their habitats. ZooAmerica also takes this mission seriously as demonstrated by the Zoo’s current residents.
Two birds native to Pennsylvania are experiencing declining populations—American Kestrels and Barn Owls. Both of these raptor species, or birds of prey, are very beneficial to farmers as a means of natural rodent control.
The American Kestrel, North America’s smallest falcon, is a fierce predator. The male has a slate-blue head and wings with a rusty-red back and tail. The female has the same warm reddish on her wings, back, and tail.
Ghostly pale and strictly nocturnal, Barn Owls are medium-sized owls with long, rounded wings and short tails. These features combine with a buoyant, loping flight. The bird’s legs are long and the head is smoothly rounded, without ear tufts.
To assist these two birds’ declining populations, participants in ZooAmerica’s summer camp, coined ZooCamp, designed to be an interactive, education and fun weeklong experience, build nest boxes to assist in the conservation of the birds. ZooAmerica staff and Milton Hershey School (MHS) students in the Natural Resource Management Class worked together to install 18 Barn Owl boxes and 22 American Kestrel nest boxes.
Currently, there are nine active Kestrel boxes and two occupied Barn Owl boxes. Each of the boxes is checked annually and any chicks found are banded by MHS Environmental Educator Nate McKelvie.
Everyone involved in the project recognizes that this is a powerful tool for connecting people to nature and fostering a conservation ethic in the Hershey Community.
To learn more about the Zoo’s conservation efforts, follow ZooAmerica on Facebook and Instagram or visit www.ZooAmerica.com.