Not only do we have magical theme parks and resorts at the Walt Disney World Resort, we also have beautiful natural areas. Walt Disney ensured that when he set aside nearly one-third of the resort property in Florida as a dedicated wildlife conservation area.
This January, I had the opportunity to join other Disney Cast Members and their families and friends as we marked a new conservation milestone – participating in the first of a planned annual holiday bird count at the Walt Disney World Resort and surrounding areas. The day-long event enabled birders of all skill levels to discover which birds are found in Central Florida in the winter. This was quite a treat for our Guests as well, since we were able to share with them stories and tips for identifying birds throughout the day.
Our holiday bird count is modeled after the Audubon Christmas bird count, which began in 1900. The National Audubon Society is among the many charities that has received support from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund, which has provided more than $3.3 million to support bird conservation around the world.
Data, collected from year to year, allows scientists to follow trends in bird populations and abundance over time. These trends help scientists focus their conservation efforts in key bird areas.
Our holiday bird count participants counted almost 14,000 individual birds representing 113 species. Fish crows were the most abundant species of the day – we counted 2,725! We also added some new species to our list including brown pelicans, hooded and black-throated green warblers, a Forster’s tern, a pine siskin, a vesper sparrow and a shiny cowbird.
Cast Members and their families enjoyed being “citizen scientists,” and the information gathered from our holiday bird count will be used to help us and other organizations look for trends in bird species abundance and diversity and assist with conservation efforts.
Recent Wildlife Wednesdays: