Wednesday, July 17, 2013
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Thursday, June 27, 2013
During the construction of Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo three years ago, special thought went into making the underside of its bridge suitable for nesting swallows.
Swallow species throughout the world nest in manmade structures, from the undersides of bridges and rafters to barns and houses. Because of their association with human-made habitats, this group of birds is considered “synanthropic”. Synanthropes are animals able to benefit from human-modified landscapes.
At the Urban Wildlife Institute we’re very interested in how these species have adapted and evolved over time in response to increased urbanization and sprawl.
Research published this year by a University of Tulsa professor revealed that cliff swallows nesting under overpasses along highways have evolved shorter wings in response to traffic. Shorter wings increase maneuverability, which allows an individual to get out of the way of fast-moving cars.
At Nature Boardwalk the only vehicle a cliff swallow might have to contend with is my boat, which inches along at 6–7 mph—with the wind at my back. So I doubt this environment encourages much natural selection for shorter-winged individuals. Regardless, it’s fascinating how uniquely adapted this species can become in response to its environment.
The swallows have just started building nests here. Once finished, these will be completely enclosed except for small entrances on one side. Nests are primarily built of mud and are a little bit larger than a softball.
Come down to Nature Boardwalk to observe this urban-adapted species build nests and eventually rear some chicks! There are about six pairs, residing mostly along the south-facing portion of the bridge. They’re constantly fluttering about, so you really can’t miss them.
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Tuesday, June 18, 2013
Spiderwort, Tradescantia ohiensis, is flowering now at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.
Monday, May 6, 2013
New World sparrows (bird species in the family Emberizidae) can often be difficult to identify. The distinguishing features on these small, brown birds can be difficult to notice, and many of these birds don’t stay still long enough for you to get a good look at them with binoculars.
Thursday, April 25, 2013
To see how urbanization has affected Lincoln Park’s birds, zoo scientists are doing daily counts to compare today’s species with those surveyed more than 100 years ago. In his latest post, President and CEO Kevin Bell shares their latest findings, including sightings at Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo.
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Nature Boardwalk at Lincoln Park Zoo
By transforming the South Pond into Nature Boardwalk, Lincoln Park Zoo has created an urban ecosystem in the heart of the city. Enjoy a virtual view as native plants and animals establish themselves in this rare refuge.
As Lincoln Park Zoo’s director of horticulture, Brian oversees the zoo’s gardens, from bud to bloom.
As coordinator of wildlife management, Mason chronicles the bugs, birds, fish, insects, mammals and more that make their homes at Nature Boardwalk.
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