Smithsonian National Zoo’s New Bird House Highlights Migratory Birds’ Incredible Journeys

Ruddy ducks in the Prairie Pothole Aviary.
Ruddy ducks in the Prairie Pothole Aviary. / Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute
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Informational panel in English and Spanish about bird migration
Panels in English and Spanish offer context for the birds' migrations. / Kat Long

In some cases, birds that are not yet at risk may depend on habitats that are threatened, says Autumn-Lynne Harrison, a research ecologist at the Migratory Bird Center. Studying birds while they’re still plentiful in their marshes or grasslands allows scientists to quickly pinpoint areas of concern. “Gathering birds together in an aviary, or studying multiple species in a habitat, can really give us more information than just a very expensive, species-by-species approach,” she tells Mental Floss.

The Bird House and its outdoor exhibits recreate three of those important habitats, with 56 bird species, native plants, fish, and invertebrates, plus informational panels that show how peoples’ choices impact the animals.