Hamerkop Nest Deconstruction
Our hamerkops Hammy and Penny have moved into their “winter home!” As a native species to Sub-Saharan African and coasts of the Arabian Peninsula, Hammy and Penny move inside to the behind-the-scenes propagation center during the colder months here at Zoo Atlanta.
You might remember from the nesting installment of our deep dive on Bird Breeding Season that hamerkops build some of the largest nests in the world, with some documented at an impressive 5 foot diameter and weighing up to 200 pounds. Since their sizable nest can’t be transported inside, the Bird Team gets the yearly pleasure of disassembling Hammy and Penny’s nest and discovering what unique touches the two have added.
In addition to the usual lineup of nesting materials (sticks, leaves, fibers, etc.), hamerkops are notorious for including “unauthorized” materials in their nests. Items from bones to animal hides have been found in Hamerkop nests in both zoos and in the wild! Here at Zoo Atlanta, this scavenging tendency often means that items left behind in the Living Treehouse often find new life in Hammy and Penny’s nest.
While 2020 and 2021’s nests featured a sizable collection of facemasks, this year Hammy and Penny’s treasures included many, many plastic spoons, Zoo maps, pens, and a hose nozzle that had gone missing. A child’s sock, pacifier, and a pair of sunglasses were also among the recovered items.
While it’s always exciting to unearth the yearly secrets of the hamerkop nest, we are excited for next year when Hammy and Penny return to The Living Tree House Aviary. Here’s hoping for a significant reduction in spoons this time around!
(photo: Emma B.)