Education Bulletin: New Aviaries

By the Education Department

Providing a home for native wildlife here at the Zoo shines a spotlight on the rich biodiversity that exists all around us. The Mediterranean region of California is designated by Conservation International as a Biodiversity Hotspot ( A biodiversity hotspot is an area with a large number of species that are only found locally and has lost over 70% of its original habitat. The California Floristic Province is home to the giant sequoia, the planet's largest living organism and holds a number of threatened endemic species.

Two new aviaries are opening soon in The Zoo’s Backyard with native species, Burrowing owls and Yellow-billed magpies. Burrowing owls are funny little creatures with long legs and big eyes that prefer to stand around on the ground and hunt at dawn and dusk. The burrowing owl population is considered at risk in California because of habitat degradation and destruction.

Yellow-billed magpies are a new species to the Zoo. You may be familiar with these charismatic, colorful, and noisy birds, but you may not know that they are only found in California. In fact, birders from around the world travel to California specifically to add these striking birds to their “life list.” Unfortunately, their isolation in California means they are vulnerable because, as our population grows and habitat becomes scarce, yellow-billed magpies will have no where else to go.

It is our hope that being surrounded by the animals at our Zoo will inspire you to conserve and “live green” in your daily life. The next time you are here, pay special attention to the California natives who call the Zoo home because these are the animals that will experience the greatest direct impact from your daily choices.

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