Saturday 20 August 2016

A Day at the Zoo.

I dedicate this post to nature enthusiasts who want to see some of these exotic birds, bugs, and animals in the wild, but don't have $10, 000 to do it. 

Things have been sort of slow around here lately (and by that I mean I haven't gotten out much). I went with my family to the zoo the other day. I got a little bit of birding in, but I was mostly focused on the captive organisms. We didn't get to as many places as we usually get to, but I still saw a lot of beautiful things. Anyway...please enjoy!

First things first. The zoo I'm talking about is the Toronto Zoo located in Toronto. I have frequently gone to the zoo ever since I was a baby.

The zoo has made major changes over the years, such as, more recently, getting rid of the African Fur Seals, which they replaced with the African Penguins, adding a merry-go-round, and upgrading the front entrance.

10 years ago - Photo:

2016 - Photo:

The zoo has been making headlines over the last few years, as there were many firsts in zoo and even Canadian history. In 2013 two Giant Pandas came from China to visit Canada for 10 years, 5 will be spent in Toronto and the other half will be spent in Calgary. In that same year, the three remaining African Elephants were moved from the zoo to California. More recently, the female Giant Panda gave birth to twins...the first panda cubs ever born on Canadian soil.

Anyway, let's get started!

As you may have expected, Ring-billed Gulls were one of the most common birds, second only to Cedar Waxwings which flew over in large groups all day. People ask me why I like to take photos of gulls so much. I think it is because they are fairly easy to approach - they don't move every two seconds like a kinglet or warbler, and, let's face it, they are very photogenic.

I mentioned earlier about a bird I wasn't sure whether to count as a wild bird or not. Trumpeter Swans do breed in the Toronto area, and there are some swans at a pond on the other side of the park that are brought in by the MNR to breed in the 'wild'. The bird also has a band, which I know doesn't mean it's 100% captive, but it was in a zoo, and zoos usually band their birds. I don't know!

After the swan sighting, we went into the Kid's Zoo. I'm 99% sure I can't count these for my Ontario list...

Secretary Bird

Marabou Stork

Crested Seriema

I heard a Common Raven in the distance, which got me excited as the raven is uncommon in the area. I was a little disappointed when I saw this:

The Capybara is the world's largest rodent, and is getting a little taste of fame right now as it "infests" the golf course in the Rio Olympics. Well, that's what you get for building a course in a wildlife reserve!

After the Kid's Zoo, we went to the Indo-Malaya part of the zoo. The butterfly pavilion has more butterflies then in recent years. There were a lot I couldn't photograph because they were either not sitting still (like the Great Orange Tip) or they were too close (I need at least 3 meters, or about 10 feet, to focus with the camera).

Paper Kite

Plain Tiger

Asian Swallowtail

Chocolate Pansy

Common Mormon


This Luzon Bleeding-heart Dove was fearless, and I literally had to duck to miss being flown into!

Indian Peafowl, Pekin Robin, and Nicobar Pigeons are some of the captive bird species spotted.

Sumatran Tigers, Orangutans,  and a White-handed Gibbon with a stuffed animal can be considered the main attraction in the pavilion.

The Americas area is probably my favourite part of the zoo. As soon as you walk into the pavilion, you enter a free flight aviary. A Common Piping Guan was making a racket, and I could see why it is called a piping guan as the Piping Plover makes a similar sound.

I saw another bird that I recognized right away...Purple Gallinule! It was smaller than I thought it would be, and it was in a weird place...a window sill!

Scarlet Ibis, Sunbittern, Plush-crested Jay, and Blue-crowned Motmot completed what could be seen in the enclosure.

I feel a little bit bad for not getting good photos of the Loggerhead Shrike in my Carden Alvar post, so here's some photos of a captive shrike which flew at the window twice. Thankfully, the shrike didn't strike.

I told my mother about the shrike's behavior of impaling their prey on thorny bushes or barbed wire. She says that she no longer likes that little predatory songbird.

Both Great Horned and Barn Owls occur in Ontario. They also both occur in the zoo.

I saw a couple bugs in front of the pavilion, Orange Bluet, Monarch and the ever present Cabbage White.

Here's a Gray Squirrel x Raccoon hybrid.

Ring-tailed Squirrel?

This is the spot we saw a wild Red Fox two years ago.

The Tundra Trek showcases the animals and birds that inhabit the north. Juno, a baby Polar Bear born November 11, 2015, is the newest addition.

The two females were enjoying the pool.

Artic Wolves were trying to keep cool.

The Snowy Owl wasn't out due to the heat, but that wasn't a surprise as it is rarely outside anyway.

The closest I could get!

This is the best look I've ever had at a Snow Goose.

The African Savannah is one of the largest parts of the zoo. As I mentioned earlier, they put the African Penguins in where the seals used to be.

Cape Shelducks and White-breasted Cormorants accompanied them.

There are a number of animals that inhabit this part of the park, such as African Lions (They're white, but they aren't a separate species), Grevy's Zebras, Masai Giraffes, Sable Antelopes, River Hippopotamus, White Rhinoceros, and Ostriches.

Chipmunks, Red Squirrels, and Groundhogs made an appearance too.

Eurasia is home to some exceptionally rare animals and birds, including the Red Panda.

Eagle Owls and Steller Sea Eagles are some of the coolest birds there.

On a side note, I heard some Eastern Kingbirds and a Baltimore Oriole as well.

The Snow Leopard was enjoying an evening nap.

Jewelweed, Spotted Joe-Pye-Weed, Canada Goldenrod, and Purple Loosestrife were seen throughout.


Joe Pye Weed


Alright, we had to wait 40 minutes to get in, but we eventually got into the panda viewing area. It was here we got to see the first cubs ever born in Canada! Their names are Jia Panpan and Jia Yueyue and they were born in the same Chinese year as me...the Ram! Their mother's name is Er Shun.

It is not certain who the father is, but it could be this guy, Da Mao.

The last wild birds I added to the trip list were House Finches, Downy Woodpeckers, and a Red-breasted Nuthatch. The eBird check list can be viewed here.

RB Nuthatch

After spending about 8 hours in the zoo, it was time to head home. After stopping for dinner, we noticed that the moon was full. Here is my attempt at a photograph.'s hard to take photos on the highway.

I'm hoping to get to Rondeau sometime this week. The WWDO is supposedly still around. Hopefully I don't miss it by ten minutes again...

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