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Be an ‘Honorary Bird’ at Disney’s Animal Kingdom

Kathy Lehnhardt

by , Curator of Education, Disney’s Animal Programs

Everyone knows about the famous migration of millions of zebras and wildebeests crossing the African savanna, right? Well, did you know that an even larger migration takes place every year right in your own backyard? Hundreds of millions of neotropcial songbirds head north and south each year. Some will stop to find food, water and cover in your backyard. You can imagine the amount of energy it takes to fly thousands of miles. These migratory birds need “rest stops” that provide them with the right food and water sources to continue their journey.

I remember sitting in my dining room one spring morning when I lived in northern Virginia and watching hundreds of orchard orioles descend on the two cherry trees in my backyard. I was astonished at the sheer numbers of them which I had never seen in the area before. Of course, there was no cherry pie for my husband’s June birthday that year but we were able to feel a part of the amazing phenomenon of bird migration.

Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Ornithologists – scientists who study birds – set up mist nests to capture birds during their migrations. This allows them to record the birds’ migration routes and describe their health status. They take measurements such as height, leg length, wingspan and plumage condition. The birds are then banded and released. At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, we will simulate these same activities around the park in celebration of International Migratory Bird Day on Saturday, May 14, from 9 a.m. – 3 p.m.

Celebrate International Migratory Bird Day at Disney's Animal Kingdom

Young Guests can choose to be banded as they enter the park and become “honorary birds” for the day, migrating to the other banding stations to participate in fun activities:

  • Main Entrance (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.): Guests receive their bird band and a bookmark with the locations of the other banding sta­tions in the park.
  • Oasis (9 a.m. – 1 p.m.) What is your feather color?: Guests can have their plumage (clothing) recorded.
  • The Tree of Life (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) What is your leg length?: Guests can have their leg length measured and recorded.
  • Asia (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) What is your wing span?: Guests can have their arm length measured and recorded.
  • Africa (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) What is your height?: Guests can have their height measured and recorded.
  • Conservation Station (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.) What bird call is that?: Guests can guess the bird that made each of three recorded calls.

Other Highlights:

  • Operation Migration (Rafiki’s Planet Watch) – Guests will have the chance to view the project’s plane and talk with representatives from Operation Migration – a program that supports the migration of whooping cranes. Operation Migration receives funds from the Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund.
  • Guests can learn about purple martins (Rafiki’s Planet Watch) and how to attract them to their area while talking with our Disney’s Animal Kingdom bird experts.

Fortunately, migratory songbirds, unlike the migrating wildebeests, don’t have river crocodiles to contend with but they do face very fierce predators…domestic cats! Yes, our wonderful pet cats that are not kept indoors are causing the disappearance of huge numbers of both migratory and resident birds. You can help protect all native birds and other small wildlife by keeping your pet cat indoors. After all, cats are safer in your home away from speeding cars and disease.

Watch the Disney Parks Blog for information on other upcoming conservation events at Disney’s Animal Kingdom:

May 25 – World Turtle Day
July 27 – International Year of the Forest Celebration
August – Cotton-top Tamarin Month Celebration
September 1 – International Vulture Awareness Day
October 26 – Year of the Bat Celebration