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Breeding season for milky eagle owls

For most species of birds in the Zoo, breeding season ended months ago. But for a select few, it’s just getting started! One of those species is our beloved milky eagle owls. Zoo Atlanta currently houses the only successful breeding pair in the country, and they usually produce one to two offspring every season. They can get very territorial during this time of year, and are very protective of their nest, eggs and chicks. Because of this we have to be very careful when managing their everyday husbandry.

Have you ever been at the Zoo in the afternoon, and seen multiple members of the Bird Team in the owls’ habitat wearing what looks like riot gear? Due to the structure of their wing feathers, owls are silent flyers. This is so their prey can’t hear them coming. They also have powerful legs, long sharp talons, and a very strong grip designed to kill their prey instantly. These are all things we have to take into consideration when caring for these amazing birds! Because of this, it requires three team members every time we need to clean the habitat. Each person wears a helmet and goggles to protect their head and face, and two keepers also carry plexi shields in order to defend against an agitated owl!

The person who’s cleaning can’t pay attention to three owls and clean at the same time. They wouldn’t hear an owl flying toward them, and you don’t want to be on the wrong side of those talons! That’s where the two team members with shields come in. It’s their job to protect the person cleaning. There is one person assigned to each adult owl, and they keep their eyes on the adults, while the cleaner moves the group around the habitat to clean. So, next time you’re at the Zoo, stop by the milky eagle owl habitat in the KIDZone and see if you can catch us in action! And if you want to see an owl in action, wait until the end. It’s always the female, and she likes to go for our shoes on our way OUT of the habitat!
Monica H.
Lead Keeper, Birds

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