Guests love visiting the Walt Disney World Resort, and a variety of wildlife does too! For several years now, a fascinating species of songbird, the purple martin, has been spending a few months a year here.
The largest member of the swallow family, purple martins eat only flying insects — including pesky flies, flying ants and Japanese beetles, but not, as often rumored, mosquitoes. Purple martins are highly social and prefer to nest in large colonies. Thanks to a conservation program led by Disney’s Animal Programs zoological manager James Mejeur, the birds have been nesting in large birdhouses with multiple “rooms” in both on-stage and backstage areas at the Walt Disney World Resort, including Disney’s Animal Kingdom, Epcot and our golf courses.
This year, James has been working with the Purple Martin Conservation Association to find out more about where the birds that nest at the Walt Disney World Resort spend the rest of the year by placing tiny geolocators on some of the purple martins. The geolocators will gather daily information on the location of the birds as they migrate. Next spring, when the birds return to the Walt Disney World Resort, we’ll remove the geolocators and uncover many of the secrets of their migration patterns. Take a look at the video to find out more.
The purple martin program is one of many that are part of the Disney’s Animal Programs native wildlife program. Our team monitors animals as varied as gopher tortoises and butterflies, as well as dozens of bird species at the Walt Disney World Resort, where nearly one-third of the property has been set aside as a dedicated wildlife conservation area.
Guests can find out more about purple martins — and many other migratory birds — during their visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom on May 8, when we’ll be celebrating International Migratory Bird Day with a special event. We’re inviting our guests to be “honorary birds” for the day. Here are some highlights:
- 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.
- Tree of Life (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.): How far did you migrate? Guests will measure their migration distance and see how they compare to other migratory birds.
- Asia (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.): What is your wing span?: Guests will have their arm length measured and recorded.
- Africa (9 a.m. – 3 p.m.): What is your height?: Guests will have their height measured and recorded.
- Rafiki’s Planet Watch (9 a.m. – 5 p.m.): Guests can participate in a variety of special activities, including learning more about Operation Migration, which has been helping rare whooping cranes migrate for more than 10 years. The Disney Worldwide Conservation Fund has supported Operation Migration since its inception.
James fell in love with purple martins during childhood visits to his grandmother’s house. Do you have special memories of purple martins or other songbirds? Let us know in the comments.
Upcoming 2013 events for connecting families with nature (as always, dates subject to change):
At Disney’s Animal Kingdom:
- May 23: World Turtle Day
- June 5: Pollinator Day
- July 25: Tiger Day
- August 1: Primate Day
- August: Cotton-Top Tamarin Month
- September 5: International Vulture Awareness Day
- September 26: Elephant Day
- October 31: Bat Day
- November 12: Rhino Day
At The Seas with Nemo & Friends at Epcot:
- May 18: Endangered Species Day
- May 23: World Turtle Day
- June 8: World Ocean Day
- September 7: International Manatee Day