Here at Audubon, we let science guide our work. And thanks to our dedicated volunteers, we’re even using science to help redecorate the habitats of our resident education birds. Gaining insight into the preferred perches and habits of birds in their enclosures helps us create a healthy environment for these special species in captivity.
At the Center, we have 39 ambassador birds, each with their own enclosure preferences. When it was time to alter the interiors of their living spaces, high school student and volunteer Anna La Sala began collecting data: She observed 14 birds in seven enclosures for five minutes at a time, for two-hour sessions, across 14 different days, mapping out where each bird sat and moved. The team scanned her maps, overlaid the different sessions on top of each other, and compiled a final map. From this spatial representation of bird movement, recommendations were created to update reconfigure bird enclosures.
For example, when observing a Turkey Vulture named Mortimer, they noticed she preferred the branches in her space, as well as the platform and the very top of poles. When moving items around her enclosure, the team recommended adding a new platform as well as a branch leading right to it.
“Bird welfare always comes first at the Center for Birds of Prey,” says Laura VonMutius, Education Manager, who helped Anna run the mini-study, “Using these observations, we are fostering scientific inquiry in our volunteers while making sure the raptors have the enclosures they prefer.”
The Bottom Line
Hundreds of injured or orphaned birds arrive at Audubon each year. Many are released back into the wild, however, some remain non-releasable and are housed at the Center or placed at other facilities throughout the country. These education ambassadors at the Center educate visitors about raptors, the challenges they face, and how people can become involved in conservation.