The start of a new year means many things. At Walt Disney World, it means the return of the gorgeous migratory birds, purple martins. We are happy to report that one of the first sightings of the purple martin in the United States is at Walt Disney World!
Each year, purple martins travel to Walt Disney World Resort to raise their young before flying more than 6,000 miles to the Brazilian rain forest and back, providing us with a unique front-row seat to the magic of nature.
To prepare for the birds’ arrival, Disney VoluntEARS gear up a month in advance by cleaning and prepping all 20 purple martin bird houses across Walt Disney World Resort. Each house has multiple rooms, so Disney now has 460 nest compartments ready and waiting for purple martins to check in. All this preparation is important because purple martins have specific needs for nesting. They prefer birdhouses almost exclusively, which enables us to attract them to areas close enough for us to observe them as they find mates, as they find mates, lay eggs and care for their chicks until they learn to fly.
Over the past few years, much has been learned by studying the birds. For example, Disney’s conservation team collaborated on a study with Dr. Kevin Fraser of the University of Manitoba that used GPS technology to pinpoint where purple martins in Brazil go to settle at night. Based on past observations by Brazilian scientists, Disney discovered that many purple martins come together at night in cities and towns in the Amazon basin, but were surprised to learn they more often frequented small islands in the Amazon River and its tributaries. This new information is critically important because only about 17 percent of the roosts identified were in protected areas of Brazil.
At Walt Disney World Resort, we have been just as curious about where our nesting birds spend the night. Using the same GPS technology, we found that our birds do not always sleep in their bird houses with their chicks. Instead, they spend some nights on freeway light fixtures. Disney believes these are popular spots because they attract nocturnal insects, which are easy early-morning meals. As soon as it starts to get bright outside, these birds race back to their nests to feed their young. And I mean they race! One of our birds flying back at 45 miles an hour. Wow!
So now, when you see those unique structures above, you will know what they are for!
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Source/Image Credit: Disney
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