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Change can be a good thing

Hi everyone. It’s Kelsey from the Bird Team again. It has been lovely to see everyone again now that we’re back open! 2020 certainly has been an interesting year that just keeps asking us to adapt to new changes. Just when our team was getting used to the “new normal” of mask wearing and social distancing, the Senior Bird Team decided to throw another change our way: routine swaps! Read along to learn about recent changes made to the Bird Department that really shook things up!

For starters, let me break down how the Bird Team operates on a day-to-day basis. To efficiently take care of all the birds who live at the Zoo, we divide our population into four separate routines: Flamingo, Treehouse, Cassowary and Propagation Center. Each routine has a primary care team member who works with the same birds every day. Having the same person work a routine allows us to maintain consistency when monitoring bird behavior and health. But of course, primary keepers need time off too! So, who covers the routine when the primary is away? This is where the swing position comes in.

Swing keepers offer coverage of any given routine when the primary keeper is on their weekend or away on vacation. That’s it! Pretty straightforward, right? The primaries are the experts of the birds on their routine, and the swing keepers are step-in extraordinaires when the primary is gone. We’ve got it all figured out! So why all of a sudden has the Senior Bird Team decided to mix things up? As a swing keeper of two years, I admittedly found myself thinking, “Why change a good thing?” However, as I spend more time in my new role of Treehouse primary, I’m beginning to realize that swapping routines has a huge benefit for not only the care team members but for the birds as well.

A few weeks ago, I was a swing keeper that was tucked sweetly into her comfort zone. Sure, I’d have the responsibility of a full routine for a day or two, but once the primary keeper returned, I could drop it back onto them and move onto the next routine that needed coverage. Now as a primary, I’m able to get the experience of focusing all my energy on a specific set of birds and projects. This means I’m largely responsible for monitoring bird interactions and behavior, setting up for breeding season, and so much more! Swapping routines can also allow things to be seen from a new or different perspective. Keepers can use their previous experience towards a new species they’ve never worked with before. This can give new insight when monitoring bird behavior and contribute to the success of breeding birds.

Sometimes change is hard. Swapping from swing keeper to primary has tested me in many ways but continues to help me grow as an aviculturist. So, remember, in a year that is constantly asking us to adjust and adapt: change is good! It allows us to be challenged in ways we might not expect. Now, go forth and embrace the changes in your life. You might just find yourself impressed at how adaptable you really are!

Kelsey K.
Keeper I, Birds

Connect With Your Wild Side #onlyzooatl